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5 things to know about Virginia elections

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Local,Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Here are five things to know about Virginia's midterm elections:

10th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

The most competitive election in Virginia this fall is in Northern Virginia's 10th Congressional District, where Democrats are hoping to nab the seat held by retiring Republican Rep. Frank Wolf for more than three decades. GOP state Del. Barbara Comstock, a former Wolf aide, is facing Democrat John Foust, a Fairfax County Supervisor. Foust has tried to make women's health issues a key part of the race, while recently drawing criticism from Comstock's campaign for wondering whether Comstock had ever held a "real job."

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THE GIANT KILLER

After pulling off a major upset victory in the Republican primary against former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Dave Brat had to adjust quickly to life in the spotlight. Now that he's the front runner to win the 7th Congressional District against Democrat Jack Trammell, Brat will have to avoid any major stumbles while trying to reunite a fractured Republican party.

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THE OBAMA EFFECT

President Barack Obama won Virginia during his two presidential campaigns and has been a frequent visitor. Last year, he campaigned with Gov. Terry McAuliffe. But the president hasn't campaigned with any Democrats so far this year, and no campaign has announced plans to do so. When asked if he's campaigning with the president, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner hasn't given a firm answer either way.

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MEDICAID EXPANSION

The dominant conflict in state politics has been whether Virginia should accept billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding in order to provide health care to low-income, able-bodied adults. So far, Republicans have had the upper hand in thwarting McAuliffe's push to expand Medicaid. The GOP thinks the issue is a winner and points to a recent special election for a state senate seat — where the Republican won by nearly 30 percentage points — as proof that the majority of Virginians oppose expansion. Whether the issue will play big in federal elections is yet to be seen.

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OTHER SLEEPERS?

Brat's victory in June was a good reminder that upsets can happen. Will there be other races that surprise this election year? In the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of the Hampton Roads area and the Eastern Shore, Democrat Suzanne Patrick is hoping to upset incumbent Republican Scott Rigell.

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