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Global Economic Development, Commerce & Government Relations Clients


June 11, 2019


Global Economic Development, Commerce & Government Relations Team, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP




2019 Virginia General Assembly Primary Results and Analysis


Tuesday’s primary election results largely favored the “establishment candidates”. The incumbents that were challenged from either the right or the left managed to emerge victoriously from their nomination contests, with two notable exceptions.


One incumbent on the Republican side who went down to defeat to a candidate running to the right was first-term Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford). Delegate Thomas’ defeat can be directly tied to his support for Medicaid expansion. The expansion issue was the main thrust of his opponent’s campaign.


The only other incumbent that was defeated this evening was Senator Rosalyn Dance (D- Petersburg). However, the victory of former Delegate Joe Morrissey was not really a product of Morrissey trying to claim the progressive mantle over Senator Dance. This race was decided on the strength of Morrissey’s retail political skills and a base of support that will show up for him regardless of his opponent. Simply put, Morrissey’s voters showed up not because of any particular progressive message, but because they have a personal affinity for him, and in a low turnout nomination contest, that was enough for the victory.


Below, please find an analysis of the results of notable House and Senate primary contests.


House of Delegates


Key Primaries Where Incumbents Were Challenged


District 28 – Part of Stafford and Fredericksburg


In 2017, Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford) won a resounding primary victory, carrying nearly 50% of the vote in a three-way primary. This year, he was narrowly defeated by Paul Milde 51%-49%, which equated to a difference of 163 votes. Early reports from the district showed that turnout was incredibly low, even for an off-year primary election. Milde, who is a former Stafford County Supervisor, hammered Thomas for his support of Medicaid expansion in 2018. Thomas worked to highlight Milde’s criminal past – he was convicted of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute as a teenager, and more recently spent 20 days in jail after pleading guilty to being an accessory to an attempted burglary. This race was already a top-target for Democrats in November, and Milde’s nomination victory will make this even more of a battleground district in November.


District 38 – Part of Fairfax County


While many thought this primary was ripe for an upset, Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) easily defeated Andres Jimenez 63%-37%.


District 49 – Part of Arlington and Fairfax County


Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) cruised to an easy primary victory over JD Spain, winning 77% of the vote. Lopez worked diligently in this race, and held events with US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Montgomery) for supporters in the district.


District 50 – Manassas; Part of Prince William County


Despite reports that Republicans were voting in this open primary in an effort to defeat incumbent Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), he won a decisive victory over Mark Wolfe, taking 58% of the vote. The fact that Wolfe switched parties recently clearly did not help him with Democratic primary voters.


Carter’s victory will rally Republicans in the district for the general election. Republicans will now focus on working to support Ian Lovejoy in the general election, in the hopes of flipping this seat in November.


Open Seats


District 4 – Dickenson; Part of Russell, Washington and Wise


Will Wampler won an easier-than-expected victory over David Eaton 64%-36% in this Republican primary. Eaton took 68% of the vote in Russell County, where he serves on the Board of Supervisors, but was soundly defeated in Dickenson, Washington, and Wise Counties. His attempts to align himself with President Donald Trump (R) and his attacks on Wampler’s inexperience and youthful indiscretions failed to gain the traction he needed throughout the district. Democrat Starla Kiser is on the November ballot, but this is a strongly Republican district where Wampler will be the heavy favorite in the general election.


District 20 – Highland, Staunton, and Waynesboro; Part of Augusta and Nelson


In this Republican primary, John Avoli defeated Dave Bourne by 20 points. Avoli won each locality in this district, and is expected to win in November.


District 23 – Part of Amherst, Bedford and Lynchburg


This race ended up coming down to a competition between Turner Perrow and Wendell Walker, with Walker taking 42% of the vote, and Perrow earning 39% (Ron Berman came in a distant third with 19% of votes cast). Both Perrow and Walker have strong ties to Lynchburg – Perrow took nearly 50% of the vote there, but Walker performed exceptionally well in Bedford County, which proved to be the difference. Democrat David Zilles will be on the ballot in November, but this is a strongly Republican district where Walker will be the favorite.


District 57 – Charlottesville; Part of Albemarle


With all but one precinct reporting, Sally Hudson handily defeated Kathy Galvin in this race 66%-34%. Hudson was the more progressive candidate, and had earned the support of a

number of sitting members of the House of Delegates. There is not a Republican announced for the general election.


District 87 – Part of Loudoun and Prince William


Endorsed by the delegate vacating this seat, Suhas Subramanyam won a clear 24-point victory in this four-way primary. Hassan Ahmad came in a distant second with 23% of the vote, and Akshay Bhamidipati and Johanna Gusman earned 11% and 19% of the vote respectively. Subramanyam will be the heavy favorite in November.


District 91 – Poquoson; Part of York and Hampton


As expected, Martha Mugler sailed to an easy victory in the Democratic primary, defeating Michael Wade 69%-31%. She will now face Republican Colleen Holcomb in the November election. Democrats believe this is one of the best opportunities for a pick-up in 2019, as statewide Democrats have won this district handily in recent years. Additionally, if the US Supreme Court does not order any changes to the current electoral map, the district will already be more Democratic-leaning than it was in 2017.


District 96 – Part of James City and York


In what most thought would be a much closer race, Amanda Batten won a major victory over Melanie Rapp Beale in this Republican primary, taking 62% of the vote. Batten won James City County by 20 points, and won York County – where Beale previously served on the Board of Supervisors – by 10 points.


On the Democratic side, Mark Downey won an easy victory in a three-way primary, taking 54% of the vote.


Batten will be the favorite in November, and her strong showing in the primary should help propel her to victory.




Key Primaries Where Incumbents Were Challenged


District 6 – Accomack, Mathews, and Northampton; Part of Norfolk and Virginia Beach


In the closing days of the primary, Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack) touted endorsements from area Democrats including Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) and Delegate Joe Lindsey (D-Norfolk), as well as US Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), helping him cruise to a decisive victory over Willie Randall 71%-29%. There is no Republican announced for the general election.


District 15 – Charlotte, Lunenberg, Mecklenburg and Nottoway; Part of Brunswick, Campbell, Danville, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Pittsylvania and Prince George


Senator Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg) was able to easily defeat his first ever primary challenge, securing 79% of the vote against Dale Sturdifen. Democrat Virginia Smith is running in the general election, but this is a solidly Republican district.

District 16 – Petersburg; Part of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Prince George and Richmond City


Senator Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) worked her district vigorously to get out the vote the day before the primary, with members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) joining her, including Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William), Delegate (and Petersburg native) Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William), and Senator Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake). The last ditch GOTV effort was not enough, as she was defeated by Joe Morrissey, 56%-44%. Morrissey took his street fighter mentality to Dance’s backyard, which paid off. He won 72% of the vote in Petersburg, a city where Dance previously served as mayor. He ended up losing the City of Richmond, where he was expected to perform the best.


In this solidly Democratic district, Morrissey’s victory will present an interesting conundrum for Democrats, assuming he wins in November. In his last term in the House of Delegates, Speaker of the House Bill Howell (R-Stafford) refused to seat him on any committees due to his legal troubles, and he was largely shunned by members of his own caucus, causing him to identify as an Independent. Some Democratic leaders had indicated before today’s primary that if he was victorious, they may not allow him to caucus with the Party.


In a year where Democrats are working to take back control on the Senate, Morrissey’s track record shows he is unpredictable – he is unapologetically pro-life and has proven he won’t necessarily be a reliable vote for Democrats on key issues.


If the Senate ends up evenly divided in 2020, Morrissey’s maverick mentality could make him one of the more powerful members of the chamber.


District 17 – Orange and Fredericksburg; Part of Albemarle, Culpeper, Louisa and Spotsylvania


In the Republican primary, Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) won a resounding victory over Rich Breeden 82%-18%. The November election will prove more challenging, where he will face Democrat Amy Laufer who also won a decisive victory over Ben Hixon, taking 79% of the vote. This race will attract significant interest, and is expected to draw substantial outside money. Reeves is well-connected to Republican interests nationally, and has a sizeable campaign war chest. This district will be a target for Democrats.


District 24 – Augusta, Greene, Madison, Staunton and Waynesboro; Part of Culpeper and Rockingham


Once again, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) survived a primary challenge, winning big against Tina Freitas, taking 57% of the vote. Freitas worked Hanger’s home territory of Augusta County hard in the waning days of the primary, but Hanger took 64% of the vote there.


Freitas reported during the day that Democrats were helping drive voters to the polls in the district in order to support Hanger in this open primary.


District 31 – Part of Arlington, Fairfax County and Loudoun


Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) worked her way to a strong 24-point victory over challenger Nicole Merlene, who never gained any traction in trying to paint Favola as a political insider who did not represent her district’s best interests.

District 35 – Falls Church; Part of Alexandria and Fairfax County


Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) survived a much closer than expected primary against Yasmine Taeb and Karen Torrent. Saslaw defeated Taeb by only four points. This race showed that the progressive element of the Democratic Party is strong in Northern Virginia, but it was not enough to defeat a veteran lawmaker with more than 40 years of legislative and campaign experience.


Open Seats


District 7 – Part of Norfolk and Virginia Beach


In a surprise victory in the Republican primary, Jen Kiggans defeated Carolyn Weems 52%- 48%. Kiggans is a former Navy pilot, and had the endorsement of Delegate Glenn Davis (R- Virginia Beach).


On the Democratic side, despite rumors that an upset may be in the works, Delegate Cheryl Turpin (D-Virginia Beach) won handily, taking 59% of the vote in a three-way primary. Susan Hippen and Kim Howard took 27% and 14% of the vote respectively.


The general election race will be very competitive, with Democrats hoping to take this seat back with the retirement of Senator Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach).


District 13 – Part of Loudoun and Prince William


Geary Higgins won a resounding victory over Ron Meyer in this Republican primary, winning by 30 points. Higgins now faces an uphill battle in the general election against Delegate John Bell (D-Loudoun) in this increasingly Democratic district.




Now that the field is set, Republicans and Democrats will work to align resources to support candidates with the best chance of victory in November.


With the US Supreme Court yet to decide on House Republicans’ challenge to court-mandated electoral maps, there is still some uncertainty with where exactly lines will be drawn in 11 House of Delegates districts. Republicans believe there are a handful of seats that could flip back to Republican control, even if the Supreme Court approves the current electoral maps.


In the Senate, Republicans are playing defense exclusively – they are only challenging one sitting Democrat in Northern Virginia. Democrats need to flip just one seat to take control of the chamber on the strength of Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) serving as the tiebreaking vote.

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