The state Senate. Photo by Markus Schmidt.
The state Senate. Photo by Markus Schmidt.

House primaries: Del. Williams ousts Del. March; Davis cruises past Jefferson

Senate primaries: Sen. Deeds defeats Del. Hudson; Del. Brewer and White-Boyd win

Local primaries: Incumbents lose in Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Buchanan County

Opinion: Republicans pull back from the brink while Democrats edge further left

Election night analysis: Five incumbents lose, including Senate Finance co-chair Barker

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Senate Democrats on Wednesday pushed back against allegations of political extremism leveled at them by Republicans after voters in Tuesday’s primary elections ousted moderate, seasoned lawmakers and replaced them with more progressive candidates that will be on the ballot in November.

“We stand up for excellent public schools, protecting people’s privacy and giving them the freedom to live their lives as they believe that they should, and having access to a successful 21st-century job. If that is radical, then I would just ask the Republicans to look at themselves before they start making those kinds of claims,” Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, said on a Zoom call with reporters. 

Five incumbent senators lost Tuesday

Four were Democrats, one was a Republican.

Democratic senators who lost:

  • George Barker of Fairfax lost to Stella Pekarsky.
  • Joe Morrissey of Richmond, lost to Lashrecse Aird.
  • Chap Petersen of Fairfax lost to Saddam Salim.
  • Lionel Spruill of Chesapeake lost to Louise Lucas of Portsmouth (also an incumbent drawn into the same district as Spruill).

    Too close to call: Jeremy McPike of Prince William County holds a 28-vote lead over challenger Elizabeth Guzman, with late-arriving mail ballots yet to be counted.

    Republican senator who lost:
  • Amanda Chase of Chesterfield County lost to Glen Sturtevant.

In a series of tweets late Tuesday, David Rexrode, a senior advisor to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, said Virginia Democrats were running candidates pushing an “extreme, out-of-step leftist agenda” — a strategy that he predicted would benefit Youngkin’s “image & agenda” in an election year when all 140 legislative seats are up for grabs. “The leftward lurch of VA Dems is astounding,” Rexrode added.

In a statement released to the press Wednesday afternoon, Rexrode doubled down on his comments from election night. 

“After the primary results from last night it is clear the radical progressive left is now in complete control of the Democratic caucus in Virginia,” Rexrode said. “Gone are the reasonable Democrats who would put Virginia first. They have been replaced with new nominees who would find like-minded comrades in the most liberal legislatures in the country.”

House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, also weighed in Tuesday, alleging in a statement that Democrats “have moved ideologically further left,” pushing one extreme idea after another. “They refuse to hold violent criminals accountable, want higher taxes, and parents uninvolved in their children’s education. The choice this November could not be more clear,” Gilbert said. 

Republicans were mainly referring to two Democratic primaries in Northern Virginia. In the 36th Senate District, Fairfax County School Board member Stella Pekarsky defeated Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, with 52-48% of the vote. A 16-year veteran of the Senate, Barker co-chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

In the neighboring 37th District, Saddam Salim, a Democratic operative from Fairfax, trounced Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, a moderate who has served in the Senate since 2008 after a three-year stint in the House of Delegates, by 54% to 46%. 

Farther to the west, however, primary voters rejected a bid by Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, who was seeking her party’s nomination in the newly created 11th Senate District. Hudson, a progressive Democrat, lost to Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, by 533 votes. 

Deeds had moved to Charlottesville from Bath County last year after new legislative maps approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2021 had paired him in the same Senate district with Sens. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County, and Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham County. 

Senate Democrats on Wednesday rejected the Republican characterizations of a leftward shift. “That’s what we expect them to say, and that’s the only thing they can say about the election results,” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said in a call with reporters.

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax County, called the Republican statements “completely preposterous” and “an effort to distract from the fact that the governor’s approval rating dropped by six points and has reached the lowest point it’s been in the last 12 months,” referring to a recent poll by the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College.

“The idea that abortion rights are extreme is rebutted by the polls, which consistently show that our caucus is 100 percent aligned with where the vast majority of Virginians stand on abortion rights,” Surovell said of one of the Democrats’ key campaign platforms this year. “The governor’s position and the positions of Republicans in the House and Senate are both extreme compared with where Virginians are today.”

And Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, the caucus chair of House Democrats, in a talk with reporters Wednesday praised the diversity and relatability of the new set of Democratic candidates. 

“We have educators, healthcare workers, veterans, faith leaders and parents on our slate who are the true representation of the diversity and the culture of our commonwealth. Our candidates have been spending time in their communities and are ready to be on the frontlines, pushing back against extremism,” Herring said. 

The general election “starts today,” Herring said. “There is no question about it, and our candidates are working to protect the rights and freedoms of hard working Virginians. The stakes are higher, and I would say that they are even higher than they were before, especially when it comes to abortion, guns and protecting democracy from MAGA extremism. We are going to have to take back the House, it is a must.”

Democrats currently hold a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, which GOP lawmakers are hoping to win back. Republicans control the House of Delegates by 52-48 seats — a majority that Democrats in return are hoping to flip. 

Stephen Farnsworth, a political analyst at the University of Mary Washington, said that while Republicans moved to the right years ago, Democrats are in fact moving in a more liberal direction this year. 

“We are a long way in Virginia politics from the moderate dominated legislative assemblies of the past,” Farnsworth said. “This election cycle will be largely about demonizing the opponents. Republicans will talk about woke legislating and parental rights, and Democrats will talk about abortion restrictions and the culture wars.”

At the same time, it is important not to “read too much into primaries,” Farnsworth added. “We’ll see where Virginia is when the commonwealth votes in November. Primaries are about empowering about the most extreme 5 percent of the electorate on each side.”

And Democrats are likely to seize on the protection of abortion rights as a key campaign issue as candidates from both parties are heading into the general election, Farnsworth said. 

“One of the things we have learned looking at results all over the country in the wake of Dobbs [the U.S. Supreme Court decision one year ago that sent laws governing legal access to abortions back to the States after 50 years] is that talking about abortion restrictions really energizes Democrats and puts Republicans on the defensive,” Farnsworth said. 

“For Republicans it was very easy to talk about outlawing abortion while the Supreme Court wouldn’t let that happen. Now that the court has opened the door to lawmaking in a way that hasn’t been possible in half a century, Republicans have a big problem between what they have said and the consequences of what they have said in this post Roe v. Wade environment.”

Locke, the Democratic senator from Hampton, pointed out that this fall marks the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned one year ago that Virginians are voting for an entirely new state legislature.

“As we look forward to November, the stakes for Virginians in this year’s election are crystal clear. Our Senate majority has been the one thing standing between Virginians and the Republicans’ extreme agenda,” Locke said. 

“Senate Democrats have prevented Republicans in Virginia from banning abortion, making it harder to vote, rolling back gun safety laws and more. This year’s elections are about whether Republicans will have the power to enact dangerous policies or whether Virginians will stand up and vote to stop them.”

Surovell added that Democratic voters on Wednesday sent “a clear message that we are ready to win” in November.

“If there is one thing that last night made clear it’s that abortion rights are a top issue for Virginia voters,” he said, referring to the Democratic primary for a Richmond-area state Senate seat, where former Del. Lashrecse Aird, who made her support for abortion rights the centerpiece of her campaign, defeated the incumbent, scandal-ridden Sen. Joe Morrissey, who opposes abortion rights.

“As residents of the only state in the South that did not pass abortion ban after Dobbs, Virginians want the freedoms to make their own health care decisions to be protected,” Surovell said. “In the meantime, Republicans are promising an abortion ban if they take control of the General Assembly. Make no mistake, abortion rights are going to be on the ballot in November, and Virginia voters are highly motivated to protect their rights.”

But despite the Democrats’ optimism, Tuesday’s primary elections were a success for Youngkin, who had endorsed a slate of more moderate candidates that were all victorious, said Farnsworth, the political analyst.

“Taken as a whole the Republican primary results are certainly good news for the governor. A Republican party whose nominees don’t include Amanda Chase or Marie March will be an easier sell to the commonwealth than a Republican ticket that included those more combative voices.” 

Chase, a state senator who dubbed herself “Trump in heels” and attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol, on Tuesday lost to a conservative challenger, former state Sen. Glen Sturtevant, in the 12th Senate District right outside of Richmond. 

March, the Republican firebrand from Floyd County, was crushed by Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, after both lawmakers had been paired in the newly created 47th House District.

After her defeat, March turned to Facebook, where she blamed her party’s establishment for her failed reelection bid, singling out Youngkin in particular. 

“One big happy family of sell-outs, pretending they care about you and messaging you they are good, kind and concerned,” March wrote in one post. “We have the most bought and paid for and OWNED governor and his crew in the United States. I have always known it when I looked into those black lying eyes. Shark eyes … snake eyes.”

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at or 804-822-1594.