When it rains, it pours, the old saying goes.
Tonight it’s going to rain.
That’s both a weather forecast and a political one. For the former, follow Cardinal News weather journalist Kevin Myatt. For the latter, come back to Cardinal News tonight.
Tonight we’ll get the results from nine Republican House of Delegates primaries, 16 Democratic House primaries, seven Republican Senate primaries and 15 Democratic primaries. That’s 47 in all, plus a smattering of local primaries for various county offices.
For political junkies, this is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. We know we’ll have at least three incumbents lose. We know this not because we’ve seen the future but because we have three primaries where incumbents are paired so one of them will have to lose: Dels. Marie March, R-Floyd County, and Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, are matched in one district; state Sens. Louise Lucas and Lionel Spruill, both D-Portsmouth, are locked together; and then Del. Sally Hudson is taking on state Sen. Creigh Deeds, both D-Charlottesville.
We could have other incumbents lose — two Republican delegates, two Democratic delegates, two Republican senators and five Democratic senators are facing nomination challenges. And then there are four delegates who are bidding for a Senate nomination. We’ve already seen a historic level of turnover in the House and near-historic levels in the Senate — at least one-third of the House and one-quarter of the Senate will be new. All those numbers could go higher after tonight. And, as I’ve pointed out before, most legislative districts this fall won’t be competitive so in many cases, these primary elections are tantamount to election because the districts tilt so strongly toward one party or the other.
We at Cardinal will be on the case tonight to report the results. Here are some of the things I’ll be looking for as the numbers come in.
House District 47 Republican primary: Marie March vs. Wren Williams
Let’s start with the Blue Ridge Cage Match between March and Williams. These two candidates have already faced off in court — March swore out an assault warrant last year against Williams; he said he merely bumped into her by accident at a party event and was found not guilty. By contrast, the primary might seem tame.
Not only does this newly drawn district pair two incumbents, it changes the territory for both. For Williams, 65% of the district’s voters will be new, according to calculations by the Virginia Public Access Project. But he’s more at home than March; for her, just under 81% of the voters will be new.
Here’s where those new voters are: The biggest locality in the district — accounting for 34.6% of the vote — is Carroll County, which neither candidate has had to run in before. Add in Galax, which accounts for 6.6% of the vote, and that’s more than 41% of the voters in the district who have neither voted for (or against) either candidate.
The first question to ask is whether the candidates will run equally strong in their home areas, or will one do a better job than the other of maxing out their own base? Williams begins with a bigger base — his home county of Patrick accounts for 21% of the vote in the district and the portion of neighboring Henry, where he’s run before, adds another 18.2%. That’s 39.2% of the vote right there. By contrast, March’s home county of Floyd accounts for 19.5% of the vote. If they run equally strong in their home areas, that means she’ll need to make up that deficit in the rest of the district — that new territory of Carroll County and Galax. By contrast, Williams needs only to break even there, or could even lose by small margins, and still win overall. Carroll County is likely to wield clout beyond its 34.6% share of the district’s population; several local Republican primaries in Carroll have driven up the early vote in the county and will probably drive up the day-of voting, too. (See my previous column on these trends.)
When the returns start to come in, I’ll be looking at how each candidate does in their home areas, and then look for trends in Carroll and Galax.
The winner here will face Democrat Patty Quesenberry in one of the most Republican House districts — in 2021, it voted almost 79% Republican.
House District 39 Republican primary: Will Davis vs. Ron Jefferson
This is a district with no incumbent. Both candidates are from Franklin County, and Franklin accounts for 64% of the voters. That makes any kind of geographical analysis of the early returns difficult. Whoever wins Franklin is probably going to win the nomination, unless it’s a very narrow win and the other guy makes up the difference in Roanoke County. The winner will face Democrat Gregory Maxwell — this is a district that two years ago voted almost 64% Republican.
Technically, there’s a Republican House primary going on in Southside, but challenger John Marsden of Farmville has dropped out, so Del. Tommy Wright, R-Lunenburg County, should win that one easily.
Now let’s look at the Senate primaries, where we have some in each party.
Senate District 4: Democratic primary: DeAnthony “DA” Pierce vs. Luke Priddy vs. Trish White-Boyd
Three Democrats are seeking the right to run against state Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County. Two are members of the Roanoke City Council: Luke Priddy and Trish White-Boyd. The third candidate, DeAnthony “DA” Piece, is a political newcomer. Roanoke accounts for 42.6% of the vote in the district and, in a Democratic primary, will probably account for an even bigger share. (The other localities, Salem and parts of Roanoke County and Montgomery County, are quite Republican.) Roanoke elects council members at-large, so both Priddy and White-Boyd have run citywide before, although White-Boyd has done it twice and Priddy once. In her last election in 2020, White-Boyd polled 21,892 votes while Priddy, in his election last year, polled 13,988. That’s not a fair comparison — White-Boyd was running in a presidential year, when turnout was highest, while Priddy wasn’t. Still, more Roanoke voters have experience voting for her than they do for him.
We can’t help but look at the returns through a racial lens. White-Boyd is Black, Priddy is white. I’d expect her to run strong in Roanoke’s Black precincts, so the first question is what kind of margins she builds there (Roanoke is about 29% Black). How does she fare in the city’s white precincts? In 2010, White-Boyd didn’t carry those precincts, but voters had three votes to cast in an at-large election for three seats. While she ran behind Republicans in most of Roanoke’s white precincts, she also outran her Democratic ticketmates. This suggests to me that even if Priddy wins that part of Roanoke, he won’t do so by the same margins that White-Boyd will get out of the city’s Black precincts. That means this Democratic primary may really be decided in those Republican-voting localities in the rest of the district. Can White-Boyd win the city by such a big margin that Priddy can’t make it up in the rest of the district? Or does he run up margins there that overcome her margin in the city? Or does she come out of Roanoke with a margin at all? Price is a wild card. He’s also a Black candidate; does he divert enough votes from White-Boyd to make the difference? There will be lots of places to look for trends in this contest and they could be conflicting.
Senate District 11 Democratic primary: Creigh Deeds vs. Sally Hudson
This is also a classic battle: Deeds, the veteran, more centrist legislator, against Hudson, the younger, more liberal legislator. (He’s been in the Senate; she’s been in the House but is looking to move up.) Will Democratic voters be more swayed by her stances or Deeds’ seniority? He’s now the ninth-most senior senator but with retirements, he’s guaranteed to move up to at least second. If Lucas loses her primary and he’s reelected, he’ll be the most senior Democrat in the Senate.
This is definitely a district where geography could tell the tale. While Deeds has represented Charlottesville and Albemarle County for two decades, he has only recently moved there from Bath County, which is no longer in the district. If that matters, then Hudson is the hometown candidate. Charlottesville is easily the most liberal locality in the district, which would seem to give another advantage to Hudson. In the campaign’s closing days, she has hammered Deeds hard for his voting record on guns, a voting record that probably sells better in Bath County than Charlottesville. The city only accounts for 21.4% of the voters, though. Most of the voters in the district — 52.5% — live in Albemarle County, and she’s only represented a small handful of them before. Deeds has the advantage of longevity there — if that matters. We’ll see if it does. Meanwhile, 26.1% of the voters live in rural parts of the district: 14.1% in Amherst County, 7.3% in Nelson County, 4.7% in Louisa County. While Deeds has not represented some of those places in the legislature, he has run twice statewide before.
However, don’t expect voters to vote in those proportions. Charlottesville and Albemarle are strongly Democratic, the other localities aren’t. Meanwhile, two House Democratic primaries in Charlottesville and Albemarle have driven up the early voting there, so those two localities will count for far more voters than their populations would suggest. A strong vote in Charlottesville would seemingly help Hudson; I wouldn’t venture a guess for Albemarle.
All I know is that Hudson hopes to run up margins in and around Charlottesville; Deeds hopes to hold those margins down in Charlottesville and win in Albemarle — or failing that, hold down those margins enough that he can run up enough margins in the rural counties to make up for that. To make sense of the early returns in this district, we’ll need to know where those votes are coming from.
This is a district that voted 58.5% Democratic two years ago; the winner will face Republican Philip Hamilton and independent J’riah Guerrrero.
Senate District 17 Republican primary: Emily Brewer vs. Hermie Sadler
If certain Republican leaders had had their way, there wouldn’t be a primary here at all, there’d have been a convention. But there is. Del. Emily Brewer of Suffolk has Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s backing, Hermie Sadler of Emporia has celebrity status as a former NASCAR driver. That alone makes this fun to watch.
Geography definitely comes into play here — 43.6% of the voters are in Suffolk. While Brewer is from Suffolk, she hasn’t represented most of them before. In fact, she’s only represented three of the city’s 27 precincts before. From her current House district, only Isle of Wight County is in the Senate district, accounting for 18.9% of the vote. For a time, Brewer also represented Southampton County and the city of Franklin; that’s another 12% of the district that has some experience voting for Brewer. Still, by any measure, somewhat more than three-quarters of this district is new territory to both candidates. Does Brewer prevail in Suffolk, even though she hasn’t run in most of it before? How does Sadler fare in the more rural parts of the district? To borrow an auto racing term, these candidates could be trading paint as the returns come in.
Unlike the other districts, this will be a competitive one this fall. The winner will face Democrat Clint Jenkins in a district that voted 52.3% Republican two years ago.
These are the legislative races that we’ll be following because all or parts of these districts fall in our coverage area, but other parts of the state have some fascinating races of their own. A few to look out for:
Senate District 1 Republican primary: This open seat race around Winchester and the northern Shenandoah Valley catches my eye because there are eight candidates. Eight! In theory, someone could win with 12.51% of the vote. One of those candidates wants to abolish the state’s mandate for a public school system; see my column Monday on how maintaining a public school system was a condition for Virginia to be readmitted to the Union in 1870. Among the candidates here is Del. David LaRock. Some 42.15% of the voters in this district are from Frederick County. Add in Winchester at 11.36% and that’s a majority of the voters, so the returns from Frederick and Wincester may be the key ones to look for.
Senate District 12 Republican primary: State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield County, faces two challengers, Tina Ramirez and former state Sen. Glen Sturtevant. Republican leaders would like Chase gone but a three-way race gives her a better shot at returning. Chesterfield accounts for more than 92% of the vote in this district.
Senate District 13 Democratic primary: State Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, faces a challenge from former Del. Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg. Even in the unlimited expanse of the internet, we don’t have the space to go over all of Morrissey’s complicated history. He’s survived a lot over the years, but can he survive Aird? She was a surprise loser in the Republican House wave two years ago and now has a chance to move to the Senate. Party leaders would love to see her win. Aird has raised more money than any other candidate in this primary cycle. The biggest group of voters in this district — 34.8% — are in Henrico County, and are new to both Aird and Morrissey. Three localities — Dinwiddie County, Petersburg and Prince George County — are ones that overlap with Aird’s former House district, meaning both candidates have represented them. Together those three localities account for just under 49% of the voters in the district.
Senate District 18 Democratic primary: This contest between state Sens. Louise Lucas and Lionel Spruill is to Portsmouth and Chesapeake what March vs. Williams in Southwest Virginia — two legislators of the same party drawn together in a highly personal race. Lucas easily wins the Twitter primary — her Twitter account is legendary — but can she win the real one?
Senate District 29 Democratic primary: Del. Elizabeth Guzman is challenging state Sen. Jeremy McPike. If she wins this primary in Prince William and Stafford counties, that would be seen as a victory from the party’s left wing. Alas, as we get into these Northern Virginia districts, it’s harder to find geographical trends, unless you know the underlying precincts. In this district, some 90% of the voters are in Prince William County.
Senate District 33 Democratic primary: Two defeated statewide candidates are attempting comebacks in a Prince William/Fairfax district. Hala Ayala was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor two years ago. Jennifer Carroll Foy was an unsuccessful candidate for the party’s nomination for governor. Almost 61% of the voters here are in Prince William County.
Senate District 35 Democratic primary: State Sen. Dave Marsden faces challenger Heidi Drauschak in Fairfax County. Marsden, like McPike, has shown an interest in issues facing rural Virginia, so that’s why this one is worth watching. This district is entirely within Fairfax County so you’ll need to know the individual precincts to find any trends.
Senate District 36 Democratic primary: State Sen. George Barker is up against challenger Stella Pekarsky in Fairfax County. Barker is co-chair of Senate Finance. One reason that budget negotiations have taken so long is that Barker has been involved in a primary; that makes it hard for him to compromise with Republicans to get a budget done. Barker also has a problem: This district has been so wildly redrawn that almost 93% of it is new territory to him. Pekarsky is on the Fairfax County School Board, so she’s had more voters in the district cast votes for her than Barker has.
Senate District 37 Democratic primary: State Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax has drawn a challenger as well, Saddam Azlan Salim. Petersen’s independent streak doesn’t always endear him to Democratic partisans. A Petersen defeat would be seen as a victory for party orthodoxy.
The other drama of the day isn’t a primary at all, but a procedural one: Will Democrats give way to mounting pressure to nominate a candidate to oppose Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, or will they let him go unopposed? They have a willing candidate — a Marine veteran, in fact — just not a willing nominating committee.