VA Primary Preview

Tomorrow is Virginia’s primary for three statewide offices and the State House. Both Democrats and Republicans have competitive primaries for the top two statewide slots. Polls close at 7p ET and our liveblog will start tomorrow at that time.

VA-Gov (D, R): Both sides have contested primaries for Virginia’s top job; the Democratic side looks like the more competitive race.

Ralph Northam

That Democrats have the more competitive race is somewhat surprising, as LG Ralph Northam (D) was not supposed to face a seriously-contested primary. After declaring, his most likely rival, AG Mark Herring (D), surprisingly decided to sit out this race and run for re-election, and as a result, Northam quickly coalesced most establishment support. A physician, Northam has had a term as LG following service in the state legislature; he is a relative moderate who supported Republicans as recently as the 2000s and was even recruited to switch parties. But Northam has more recently mostly been notable for being about as bland and low-key a pol as they come. That has historically been a good posture for Virginia Democrats, who have built their statewide success over the last decade and a half through unexciting moderate-liberals like Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D). Northam also received the endorsement of the Washington Post, which can swing a fair number of moderate-liberal votes in NoVa. But this year with the liberal grassoots energized, Northam’s bland, somewhat moderate/establishment nature has left a significant opening to his left.

Tom Perriello

Ex-Rep. Tom Perriello (D) entered the race just before the filing deadline. Perriello served one term representing VA-5, being swept in on the 2008 wave by a tiny margin, and then summarily swept out in 2010. Despite representing a red district, Perriello was an unapologetic progressive in the House, leading him to become a minor national left-wing hero. However, he had largely gone dark from the political stage since his loss, which is why his late decision to enter the race came as a bit of a shock. Perriello has attempted to seize the Sanders mantle, which is something of a strange decision in a state that Clinton won easily and where Democrats are generally considered establishment-friendly. However, the strategy has worked to an extent; despite starting at a name rec deficit to Northam, polling now shows the race very close. All in all the Dem race looks close to a pure Tossup, though there have been rumblings that Northam has opened up some slight momentum over the last few days.

Ed Gillespie

Unlike the hotly-contested race on the Democratic side, the Republican primary has been thought to have a clear front-runner in ex-RNC Chair and 2014 US Senate nominee Ed Gillespie (R). Gillespie came much closer than expected to upsetting entrenched Sen. Mark Warner (D) in 2014, and he has parlayed that performance into a strong rapport with the state GOP establishment. Gillespie has fundraised very well, and mostly played prevent defense in the primary, coasting on his name recognition and party ties; unsurprisingly, he has more than lapped his rivals in funding. With the exception of one recent poll that showed the race close, Gillespie has also led by healthy margins in all polling.

Corey Stewart

Prince William CE Corey Stewart (R) has been considered Gillespie’s major rival. Stewart has held the top job in the large and diversifying NoVa suburban county for a decade, and has been well-known as a longtime immigration hawk. For this race, Stewart has attempted to carve out an antiestablishment niche. That is not the worst strategy, as Gillespie is about as quintessential an establishment figure as they come, leaving ample room for a more populist-conservative campaign. However, Stewart’s campaign might be best summed up by the phrase reductio ad absurdum; he has taken the antiestablishment mantle to a comical extent. Stewart was dismissed last year as Trump’s Virginia campaign chair for leading a protest outside the RNC, and he has made his major issue this year an over-the-top dramatic defense of Confederate monuments. Unsurprisingly, Stewart hasn’t been able to break outside of his hardcore antiestablishment base, and looks likely to finish well behind Gillespie unless extremely low turnout hands power to his dedicated core of supporters. Should he pull a major surprise and be nominated, he would likely be by far the weakest general election candidate.

Frank Wagner

State Sen. Frank Wagner (R) is the third candidate in the race. Wagner is a veteran and mainstream conservative who has held down a swingy State Senate district in Virginia Beach for over a decade. However, he does not have high name recognition outside of his native Hampton Roads area, and has been far behind Gillespie in fundraising. Thus, he has been treated as a bit of an also-ran for much of the campaign. However, he could still have some support in the Hampton Roads area, and he received the Washington Post endorsement, which may be worth some minor support from NoVa moderates. That positioning combined with the weak nature of Stewart’s campaign makes it possible Wagner could slip into second place. But all in all this primary looks likely to be an easy Gillespie win.

The general election in the purple-to-light-blue state is likely to be competitive barring a Stewart nomination, though recent polls have shown Democrats with moderate leads. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as a Tossup.

VA-LG (R, D): Both sides have competitive three-way primaries for the separately-elected #2 slot as well, though it looks like in this case the Republican side is more contentious.

Jill Vogel

State Sen. Jill Vogel (R) is the best-funded candidate. A former RNC aide who is personally wealthy and represents a wealthy exurban NoVa seat, Vogel has been known as a relative moderate in the legislature, but is still an establishment conservative overall. She has had strong establishment support, particularly in the suburban part of the state; to win, Vogel will likely need to run up a margin in NoVa, bolstered by ad spending in the DC market. However, her main liability is the accusation that she has personally emailed out (under a fake name) false rumors that her main rival was having an affair. For her part, Vogel has said that her family’s electronics were hacked and used to send the emails.

Bryce Reeves

Fellow State Sen. Bryce Reeves (R) has been seen as Vogel’s major rival. Reeves, who represents a seat stretching from Fredericksburg to Charlottesville, is best-known for brokering a deal to expand gun rights in the legislature. Like Vogel, Reeves has significant establishment support, generally concentrated in the “RoVa” part of the state outside the DC sphere of influence. Though he can’t match Vogel’s fundraising, he has raised enough cash to be credible. But Reeves has become bogged down in an acrimonious fight with Vogel over that false affair allegation, which has triggered a lawsuit between the two. All in all the situation has left neither looking particularly good. Additionally, Reeves has taken criticism for a mailer bragging that he opposed a gay judicial nominee solely because of his sexuality.

Glenn Davis

The tit-for-tat squabble between Reeves and Vogel could provide an opening for the third candidate in the race, State Rep. Glenn Davis (R). Davis, who represents part of Virginia Beach, is an establishment conservative; though he has been behind Vogel and Reeves in funds, he has raised enough to be credible. Davis has been touring the state by RV, hoping to make up his funding deficit with retail campaigns. Useful polling of this race is basically non-existent, as all three candidates remain little-known. CW is that Vogel is a slight front-runner, but any of the three candidates could have a chance to win.

Justin Fairfax

Three candidates are also running on the Democratic side. Former federal prosecutor and 2013 AG candidate Justin Fairfax (D) mounted his first statewide bid four years ago as an antiestablishment candidate. As a little-known prosecutor, he came within three points of upsetting the heavily-favored then-State Sen. Mark Herring (D). However, Fairfax made a good impression in that race and his second try for statewide office has been met with more support from establishment Democrats. As an African-American, his heritage also could give him a strong base in an increasingly diverse party. Though he still does not have particularly high name recognition and his fundraising has been mediocre, Fairfax still leads his two intraparty rivals on both counts. And that combined with his establishment backing has led CW to peg Fairfax as the front-runner in this primary.

Susan Platt

Former Biden Senate CoS, Dem operative, and lobbyist Susan Platt (D) has been second in fundraising, bolstered by support from EMILY’s list. Platt has been attempting to position herself as the most liberal candidate in the field, openly advocating for Trump’s impeachment. Platt has some significant establishment support; however, her fundraising and establishment backing has trailed Fairfax’s, and she has also been hurt by allegations of falsely claiming endorsements. Thus, CW has her likely to come in second.

Gene Rossi

The third candidate in the race, former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi (D), has an interesting story of recovery from a rare blood disease and a long history of prosecutorial service. However, Rossi’s resume as an establishment liberal prosecutor largely overlaps with Fairfax’s, and he has struggled with fundraising and attracting establishment support. Overall, the race still looks like Fairfax’s to lose, but with all three candidates little-known, an upset (more likely by Platt on left-wing votes) is definitely within the realm of possiblity.

With nominees on both sides still unknown, the general election still has a lot of uncertainty, and much will depend on how the gubernatorial election shakes out. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as a Tossup.

VA-AG is the last office on the ballot, and the lone office in Virginia with no primary this year. Incumbent Mark Herring (D) will face former federal prosecutor John Adams (R). Adams is a credible candidate as a veteran and former Bush 43 administration official, but an incumbent Virginia Row Officer hasn’t lost a bid for re-election in at least 90 years, and thus Herring looks like a very strong favorite. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Likely D.

Las Vegas: Finally, we normally don’t cover city council races, but there are some interesting stories in the two seats on the Las Vegas City Council that will head to runoffs tomorrow. District 2 is located in the suburban west-central Summerlin area. Incumbent Bob Beers (R) led veteran Steve Seroka (D) 43-29 in the preliminary. However, Beers has been under fire for his support of a new development, and the third candidate in the race also opposed it. As a result, Seroka could have a wedge issue in which to prevail, and there seems to be no clear favorite in the runoff; money has been flowing heavily to both sides District 6 is located in the suburban northwest of the city. Antiestablishment firebrand libertarian-conservative ex-State Rep. and 2016 NV-3 candidate Michelle Fiore (R) led Kelli Ross (D), wife of the outgoing incumbent, 46-31 in the preliminary, and should be at least slightly favored in the runoff.

Flip over for Virginia State House Previews!

Note that Virginia uses a strange system in which local parties can determine whether to have a normal primary, convention, or “firehouse primary” (which occurs usually on a Saturday for a few hours and is run by the party). These are the races with traditional primaries tomorrow. All PVIs are 2016.

Virginia State House:

VA-LD-2 (D) is an R-held D+9 open seat around Quantico in the southern DC exurbs. Cop and 2015 nominee Josh King (D), who lost by 1% two years ago, has most establishment support and should be favored over public defender Jennifer Foy (D). The primary winner should be favored over manager Laquan Austion (R) in the general.
VA-LD-13 (D) is an R-held D+6 seat around Gainesville and Manassas Park, north of Manassas. Four Democrats are fighting to take on social conservative firebrand incumbent Bob Marshall (R), who has managed to hold on as his seat has become increasingly blue. Teacher and former prosecutor Steve Jansen (D), local Dem official Mansimran Kahlon (D), journalist Danica Roem (D), and veteran Andrew Adams (D) are facing off; there is no clear favorite in the primary.
VA-LD-21 (R, D) is an R-held D+1 seat in southwestern Virginia Beach. Incumbent Ron Villanueva (R) should be favored over Bill Haley (R), who took about a third of the vote against an incumbent Republican State Senator two years ago in a primary. On the Dem side, realtor Kelly Fowler (D) should be favored over administrator Tom Brock (D), who is under fire for a history of racist social media posts.
VA-LD-28 (R) is an R+1 open seat in southern DC exurbs north of Fredericksburg. Stafford County commissioners Bob Thomas (R) and Paul Milde (R) are facing off with ex-Stafford County commissioner and 2015 candidate Susan Stimpson (R). Stimpson has the highest name recognition, Milde has raised the most, and Thomas has the outgoing incumbent’s endorsement, so this one looks like a three-way Tossup.
VA-LD-31 (D) is an R-held D+4 seat in DC exurbs west of Potomac Mills. Two Dems are vying to take on incumbent Scott Lingamfelter (R), 2015 nominee and teacher Sara Townsend (D) and social worker Elizabeth Guzman (D); there is no clear favorite in the primary.
VA-LD-33 (D) is an R+8 seat covering northern Loudon County and some rural areas to the west. Two Democrats are vying to take on incumbent Dave LaRock (R). Banker Mavis Taintor (D), who has self-funded an insane $175K warchest for this race, should be favored over farmer Tia Walbridge (D).
VA-LD-42 (D) is an R-held D+11 open seat around Lorton. Think tank operative Kathy Tran (D) is facing off with social worker Tilly Blanding (D); Blanding has a bit more establishment support and looks like a slight favorite. The GOP nominee will be decided in a firehouse primary.
VA-LD-51 (D) is an R-held D+3 seat in central Prince William County south of Manassas. Insurance adjuster Ken Boddye (D) and federal worker Hala Ayala (D) are facing off for the right to challenge incumbent Richard Anderson (R); there is no clear favorite in the primary.
VA-LD-54 (R) is an R+6 seat south of Fredericksburg. Incumbent Bobby Orrock (R) should be favored over businessman Nick Ignacio (R).
VA-LD-56 (R) is an R+10 open seat stretching from rural areas around Louisa to Richmond’s western exurbs. Six Republicans are facing off: Dentist and former school board candidate Surya Dhakar (R), engineer and zoning board member George Goodwin (R), attorney and local GOP official Graven Craig (R), former Navy Seal John McGuire (R), attorney Matt Pinsker (R), and country radio host Jay Prendergast (R). There is no clear favorite.
VA-LD-57 (D) is a D+27 seat covering Charlottesville. Incumbent David Toscano (D), the Minority Leader, should be favored over researcher Ross Mittiga (D), who is running on a far-left platform. However, in Perriello’s home area, Mittiga might have a chance at an upset with high left-wing turnout.
VA-LD-63 (D) is a black-majority D+18 seat covering Petersburg and some rural areas to the southwest. Incumbent Lashrecse Aird (D) should be favored in a rematch with businesswoman Gerry Rawlinson (D), whom she defeated two years ago for an open seat.
VA-LD-64 (R) is an R+12 open seat covering rural areas around Smithfield. Isle of Wight County commissioner Rex Alphin (R) looks like a moderate favorite over businesswoman Emily Brewer (R), but an upset is possible.
VA-LD-67 (D) is an R-held D+12 seat around Chantilly. Three Democrats are squaring off to take on incumbent Jim LeMunyon (R). Consultant Karrie Delaney (D), a former city councilwoman in West Melbourne, FL, looks favored over Dem operatives John Carey (D) and Hannah Risheq (D).
VA-LD-68 (D) is an R-held D+4 seat stretching from western Richmond to its western suburbs. Three Democrats are vying to take on incumbent Manoli Loupassi (R): state official Dawn Adams (D), attorney Mary Jo Sheeley (D), and professor Ben Pearson-Nelson (D). There is no clear favorite.
VA-LD-70 (D) is a black-majority D+28 seat covering inner southern and eastern Richmond suburbs. Incumbent Delores McQuinn (D) should be favored over manager Alex Mejias (D), who is running on a liberal platform, though Mejias seems serious enough to have a chance at an upset.
VA-LD-72 (R) is an R-held D+2 open seat snaking through Richmond’s northwest suburbs. Henrico County GOP chair and 2015 State Senate candidate Eddie Whitlock (R) looks like a moderate favorite over local GOP official and financial advisor Ernesto Sampson (R). The winner will advance to a competitive general with teacher Schuyler VanValkenburg (D).
VA-LD-89 (D) is a black-majority D+30 open seat in central Norfolk. Attorney Jay Jones (D), son of a prior Rep., looks like a moderate favorite over NAACP official Joe Dillard (D).
VA-LD-92 (D) is a black-majority D+27 seat covering most of Hampton. Incumbent Jeion Ward (D) should be favored over shipbuilder Michael Harris (D).

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  • PiT June 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    VA-Gov should be competitive, but I don’t think Gillespie is the man for the job and Corey Stewart does not impress either. I do not follow Virginia politics too closely, but statewide recruitment seems to be a perennial Achilles heel for the GOP there.

    • fzw June 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Gillespie’s the strongest Republican in the field, no question IMO, but yeah, either Northam or Perriello (good God) has an edge over him

      Currently MO-5. From MO-3.

  • Tekzilla June 12, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Guesstimations since we have so little data…

    Periello wins 52-48%, Gillespie scrapes by Stewart something like 44-42-16.

    Fairfax and Reeves win LG.

    36/M/NY-01 (D)

    • dforston June 12, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Gillespie wins by at least 10.

    • Izengabe June 12, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      Godforbid Stewart wins this. The VA GOP has a history of stupidly throwing away very winnable races by nominating the absolutely worst candidate. Stewart is undetectable and nominating him is basically handing the office of Governor to the Democrats for 4 more years.

      Follow me on Twitter: @Izengabe_

      • dforston June 12, 2017 at 5:11 pm

        Remember those bad candidates came from conventions rather than primary. With Gillespie’s $, get out the vote and name recognition advantage, I have a hard time believing it will really be that close.

  • MosheM June 12, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    great job!

    29, M, R, NY-10

  • edtorres04 June 12, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    My biggest fear is that the VA gov republican primary will be like the 2001 NJ republican primary.

    If you guys will recall, Bob Franks just narrowly lost the senate race to Corzine and jumped into the governors primary in 2001 when Donnie D dropped out. Schundler ended up beating Franks. I certainly hope Gillespie does not = Bob Franks!

    • Izengabe June 12, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Schundler is no Corey Stewart! At one point Schundler was considered a rising star. A conservative who won the Mayorship of urban Jersey City and help turn the city around. Schundler was a victim of bad timing. No Republican was going to win NJ Gov in 2001. After 8 years of Christine Todd Whitman voters wanted change. It was a lot like NJ Gov is this year. Franks would have lost just as badly.

      Follow me on Twitter: @Izengabe_

  • Republican Michigander June 12, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Not great choices. If I had to vote, I’d go Gillespie and Davis. I’d vote Reeves if it wasn’t for that mailing. If the judge is bad, vote against him for that, not because of who he sleeps with. That’s nobody’s business.

    MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

    • shamlet June 12, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      Agree. I was rooting for Reeves until I saw that judge thing (I liked his work on the gun rights bill) but I’m rooting for Davis now.

      R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

  • kev-inVA10 June 12, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I live in VA and have been following this primary on the ground up close.

    People are correct in assuming that the real horse race for GOV is indeed on the Democratic side. The GOP race effectively ended at 12:00 AM on November 9th 2016(although Gillespie was heavily favored before then). His fundraising, advertising, and field game crushes Stewart and Wagner in every way, shape, and form(their operations outside of a small core of supporters is virtually nonexistent).

    Although I do worry that low turnout on the GOP side could make this alot closer then expected.

    LG on the R side is indeed Vogel favored as Reeves and Davis just haven’t caught fire-although the latter’s efforts might pay off.

    Now to the Dems, where the real race is.

    It seems from what I see both Perriello and Northam are about equal in the GOTV operations. Although I notice there is a lot more youth & enthusiasm for Perriello(all hs events are pretty much packed) while same cant be said for low energy Ralph.

    Perriello throughout this race has also run a very open and transparent campaign where he has held open townhalls throughout every part of the Commonwealth.(even the GOP trackers are let in)

    The same can’t be said for Ralph who’s run very under the radar and pretty much only holds private unannounced events with local activists.

    My gut where and what I feel on the ground is that Perriello could pull off a big upset. As the momentum seems to be with in in these final hours(although that is a crapshoot)

    Dem LG-I lean Fairfax-however it should be noted that many established Dems in VA have typically disliked him. Platt’a also been getting a lot of attention from BOLD PROGRESSIVES for pushing for Trump’s impeachment(even though the office she is seeking has remotely no say in that) and calling for the removal and renaming of all Confederate landmarks(which has gotten her death threats on the controversial website Fairfax Underground)

    All of this said tomorrow should be very interesting. I’m going to be up very late tomorrow-so I’m hoping to get to bed early tonight! 😉

    R-VA Ex-R-MI

    • MosheM June 12, 2017 at 11:50 pm


      29, M, R, NY-10

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