DemDaily: Virginia Primary Election Results!

June 21, 2023

The Virginia General Assembly held its primary yesterday, voting for the party nominees who will represent them in the high-stakes election this November.

It was the first time Virginia residents cast their ballots under the new redistricting map, drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court in late 2021 -- which shook up legislative districts and prompted the retirement of a number of veteran lawmakers.

While control of the legislature will not be decided until November, Tuesday's primary elections determined the crucial battlegrounds in the general election, less than five months away.

Democrats currently control the Virginia State Senate, 22-18, while Republicans hold the House of Delegates, 52-48. The governorship, however, is held by far-right Republican Glenn Youngkin, and, with a two-thirds majority in each house required to override a gubernatorial veto, every Democratic victory will be critical to the future of issues like gun safety legislation, LGBTQ rights, climate change, voting rights and reproductive freedom.

The Old Dominion
In 2019, voters in the Old Dominion sealed the state's steady transformation to reliably blue by flipping both legislative chambers to Democrats, giving them their first trifecta since 1994. This built on Democrats' record of winning every statewide election in Virginia since 2009.

Although Virginia had voted Republican in every presidential race since 1968, shifting demographics and rapid population growth over the last decade thrust the state into the battleground category.

Barack Obama broke the GOP streak with wins in 2008 and 2012, followed by Hillary Clinton with 5.4% over Donald Trump in 2016, and Biden with 54.11% to Trump's 44% in 2020.

In the 2021 elections, however, Democrats experienced a major setback with the unexpected loss of former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) to GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin, 48.6% to 50.6%. Republicans narrowly swept the state's top three offices and flipped control of the State House.

The Results
While the nominees in a majority of the primary races had already been decided through internal party agreements or candidates running without opposition, the remaining contests tried the strength of incumbents and the ideological tension of open seats going into the general election.

State Senate
More than half of the Senate’s 40 seats held primary elections, with Democrats holding twice as many primaries as Republicans.

A number of Democratic incumbents were defeated by progressive challengers, including controversial pro-life Senator Joe Morrissey (13 SD-Richmond), who was handily unseated by former Delegate Lashrecse Aird, 69% to 31%, in one of a number of races that focused on abortion rights.

Northern Virginia saw two insurgent candidates successfully run to the left of their establishment opponents. In the 36th SD (Mount Vernon), Stella Pekarsky prevailed over incumbent George Barker 52% to 48%, and in the 37th SD (Fairfax), Saddam Salim defeated incumbent "Chap" Petersen 54% to 46%.

In the 33rd Senate District, former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2021, beat former delegate Hala S. Ayala, who ran for lieutenant governor the same year.

In Hampton Roads' 18th SD, where two longtime Black lawmakers were pitted against each other after redistricting, Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas won out over Lionel Spruill, 53% to 47%.

Democratic incumbent Creigh Deeds (25 SD-Charlottesville) narrowly fended off a progressive primary challenge by Sally Hudson by 2 points, and the contest for Manassas' 29th District has yet to be called, where incumbent Jeremy McPike holds a slight 50.1% to 49.9% lead over progrssive challenger Elizabeth Guzman.

Among Republicans, Senator Amanda Chase, a self-proclaimed "Trump in heels" who attended the January 6, 2021 rally in Washington the day of the insurrection, lost a three-way primary contest for Greater Richmond's 12th SD. Former state Senator Glen Sturtevant took the nomination with 39.9% to Chase's 37.8%, followed by Tina Ramirez with 22.4%. Chase has yet to concede the election.

While Trump acolytes have not faired well in recent elections, all ten of Youngkin's endorsed candidates prevailed, underscoring his continued popularity among GOP primary voters.

Those included the Frederick County-based 27th SD open seat, where state Delegate Tara Durant defeated businessman Matt Strickland by 10.6%, and in Fredericksburg's 17th SD, where Delegate Emily Brewer defeated Hermie Sadler by 15.4%. The race in the Manassas-area 29 District is uncalled, with Maria Martin and Nikki Baldwin within four votes of each other.

House of Delegates
Of the 100 State House seats up in 2023, one-fourth had contested primaries -- dominated primarily by newcomers.

Among the Democratic primaries, educators won two key races in rebuke of Youngkin and Virginia Republicans' continued assault on public schools. Fairfax Country School Board member Karen Keys-Gamarra triumphed in a heated four-way contest for the 7th District nomination with 37.1% of the vote, while fellow school board member Laura Cohen decisively overcame two opponents with 65.5% in the Shenandoah-area 15th HD.

Other progressive victories included Adele McClure (HD2), Amy Laufer (HD55), Susanna Gibson (HD 57), Rae Cousins (HD 79) and Kimberly Pope-Adams (HD 82). Two races, House Districts 19 and 96, remain uncalled.

Among the Republican primaries, the most closely watched was the contest for the newly drawn Arlington-based 47th District, which pitted incumbents Wren Williams Patrick) and Marie March (Floyd) against each other. Williams easily prevailed with 67% of the vote.

See Full Election Results

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: Washington Post, Politico, AP, NBC, Axios, VA Assembly, New York Times

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