ASHBURN, Va. (WUSA9) -- Did you know there is a key special election in Virginia this month? It could make a big difference in how the state's new governor does his job.
The election is on January 21. Two state senators elected to higher office, Ralph Northam from Norfolk and Mark Herring from Loudoun County, need to be replaced.
Northam was elected Lt. Governor and Herring will be the new Virginia Attorney General.
One of the Senate districts is the 33rd, which stretches from Leesburg in Loudoun County to western Fairfax County.
George Mason University Public Policy Professor Mark Rozell says a victory by Republicans in one of those districts would give them a 21-19 advantage in the State Senate and control of both houses of the General Assembly.
Rozell says that would make it very difficult for Governor Elect-Terry McAuliffe to move his agenda forward. A number of voters we talked to say they were unaware of the special election.
The three candidates running are Democrat Jennifer Wexton, Republican John Whitbeck and long time state Republican Delegate Joe May, who is running as an Independent. Rozell says there's a chance that May and Whitbeck will split the GOP vote and give Wexton a victory.
A key to victory, though, will be turnout. Special elections traditionally don't bring voters out in large numbers so whichever candidate is more successful in getting out their core voters has the best chance to win.
The race also features the split in the state Republican Party. May lost his bid for re-election to the House when he lost to a Tea Party candidate in last year's primary.
Whitbeck will also have to explain a joke he told at a public Republican gathering that many considered anti-semetic.
Written by Hank Silverberg.