In the key Democratic Primary elections held Tuesday, June 11, NV/RPAC supported candidates won in all but one race. Due to changing demographics and few Republican candidates on the ballot for November, these elections are likely the deciding race for who will represent Northern Virginia in the General Assembly and the Fairfax County Board.
A small set of Virginia Democrats said they’re largely fine with the status quo at the polls Tuesday.
With all precincts reporting, results show that incumbents in Northern Virginia — including Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, a 43-year veteran in the statehouse — avoided upsets from younger, more progressive challengers in the party primaries.
Political scientists weren’t expecting many surprises, with incumbents outraising challengers by as much as 20-1 in some races.
On the Republican side, conservative challenges to GOP incumbents saw mixed results. Paul Milde, who challenged Del. Bob Thomas (R-Stafford) over his vote to support the expansion of Medicaid, narrowly defeated the incumbent. Meanwhile Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) fended off Tina Freitas who ran against his Medicaid vote.
Turnout in most counties was low: 17% in Arlington County, 10% in Fairfax County. That’s about on-par for prior primary elections without a race for governor or president on the ballot according to data from the State Department of Elections.
Rachel Bitecofer, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University, says the parties got what they wanted.
“We didn’t see a progressive uprising,” she says. “And it doesn’t take much when only 14,000 or so people are voting.”
Democrats now turn their focus to November, when they hope to flip both the House and Senate. All 140 seats are on the ballot. Republicans have a 21-19 advantage in the Senate and a 51-49 majority in the House. Democrats won 15 seats in the House in 2017.
Northern Virginia Results
There were some signs that the Democratic party in the state is shifting to the left, especially in deep-blue Northern Virginia. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) faced his first challenger in 40 years in human rights attorney Yasmine Taeb. He won by only about 500 votes, according to preliminary results.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics says the race was “shockingly tight for one so senior.”
Taeb, who earned an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America, pegged Saslaw as too pro-business and too close to Dominion Energy. Saslaw had accepted $350,000 from the utility company over his career and is a key broker in energy policy in the statehouse.
Carolyn Fiddler, who works for DailyKos and closely follows Virginia state politics, suspects Saslaw will need to follow his left-moving caucus after such a close win.
“Saslaw is a powerful incumbent, but he had a serious run for his money,” Fiddler says. “He’s very smart and he’s going to take that to heart.”
Elsewhere in the region, incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) defeated Nicole Merlene. And Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas) defeated challenger Mark Wolfe, who ran to the right of Carter, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who has a heavy social media following.
Suhas Subramanyam won a four-way open primary in the 87th House District, which covers portions of Loudoun and Prince William counties. If he wins in November, he would be the first Indian-American in the Virginia statehouse.
Given that Democrats outnumber Republicans in many Northern Virginia districts, the primaries sometimes serve as a de facto general election.
Perhaps the biggest shocker of the night took place just south of Richmond. In a Senate primary in the Petersburg area, Sen. Rosalyn Dance lost to controversial challenger Joe Morrissey. Morrissey is a former state delegate who went to jail after an Alford plea for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Prosecutors said he had sex with his then-17-year-old receptionist. He is now married to the woman.
Highest-Ever Fundraising In Local Races
This primary cycle saw some of the most expensive local primaries in Virginia history, including the state’s first million-dollar local primary.
The contest for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair — the highest elected office in the county — saw four candidates raise more than $1.7 million. The winner was the second-highest fundraiser, Supervisor Jeff McKay, who brought in more than $568,000 and won more than 40% of the vote.
In that race, housing developer Tim Chapman — who came in last — spent the most money by far, much of it his own. He loaned himself more than $835,000, based on the most recent financial disclosures. In total, he spent more than $853,000, which breaks down to about $125 per vote, although this estimate doesn’t account for any spending after May 30. Chapman also financed a legal memo accusing McKay of ethics violations. His attorneys accuse McKay of improperly accepting gifts from a real-estate developer with business before the board, and have filed an ethics complaint against him. McKay has denied all wrongdoing.
According to unofficial results posted Tuesday night, approximately 74,000 ballots were cast in the Democratic race for county board chair, representing about 10% of active voters in the jurisdiction.
Unofficial vote counts show that Alicia Plerhoples, a Georgetown University law professor, came in second in the contest with about 22,000 votes countywide. She was followed by school board member Ryan McElveen at roughly 11,500 votes and Chapman under 7,000. Plerhoples raised more than $164,000; McElveen, more than $139,000.
McKay will face Republican Joe Galdo in November.
Two hotly-contested Commonwealth’s Attorney races in Arlington and Fairfax drew big money from the Justice and Public Safety PAC, which aims for criminal justice reforms and is funded by liberal philanthropist George Soros.
Challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who accepted $600,000 from the PAC, defeated incumbent Theo Stamos in Arlington County 51% – 49%.
In Fairfax, challenger Steve Descano, who garnered $400,000 from the PAC, defeated incumbent Ray Morrogh, also by 51% – 49%.
Full results are available at VPAP.org and VAElect.