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Saslaw And Hanger Hang On, Morrissey Pulls Upset In Virginia Primaries

Voters cast their ballot in Richmond in Tuesday's primary
Voters cast their ballot in Richmond in Tuesday's primary Crixell Matthews/WCVE News

Virginia incumbents largely held out against challengers in primaries on Tuesday, with the neverending exception of Joe Morrissey.

Morrissey pulled off an upset against Sen. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) in the 16th Senate District in spite of the Dance’s big-naming backing from top Democrats and her significant cash advantage.

Senate minority leader Dick Saslaw, the longest-serving lawmaker in the General Assembly, eked out a narrow win against Yasmine Taeb. The human rights attorney attacked Saslaw’s ties to special interests like payday lenders and Dominion Energy, while Saslaw supporters painted Taeb as an out-of-touch newcomer to the district.

The Republican House caucus lost one incumbent to a challenger, while Democrats lost one incumbent in the Senate. Preliminary results showed higher average turnout for Republican House races across the state than for Democrats.

In the Richmond area, community college administrator Ghazala Hashmi won a three-way nomination fight and will take on Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-Richmond). Sturtevent holds a large edge in financing but is in a district that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in recent elections.

Republican Garrison Coward easily beat Lori Lorsi and will face Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) in November, with Adams defending a seat she won in an upset in 2017. Coward is one of two black GOP candidates up for election in the legislature this fall.

Del. Debra Rodman (D-Henrico) won almost 60% of the vote against immigration attorney Veena Lothe in the 12 Senate district. Rodman will face Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), an OB-GYN, in another seat Democrats are targeting as they seek to flip the chambers.

Firebrand conservative Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) will face Democrat Amanda Pohl, a social worker, and educator, in a traditionally Republican district.

Three incumbent Republicans who voted for Medicaid expansion, and faced challengers largely because of that vote, had a mixed showing.

Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), who entered the legislature in 1983 and whose social policies carry traces of that more moderate era of Republicanism, easily beat Tina Frietas, who repeatedly attacked Hanger over his vote. Del. Robert M. Thomas Jr. (R-Stafford) lost a more narrow race to Paul Milde, former chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. Another race between Del. Chris Peace (R-Hanover) and Hanover Supervisor Scott Wyatt remains mired in controversy, with the candidates disagreeing about the validity of two different nominating processes.

Elsewhere, Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas), a Democrat who describes himself as a socialist, defeated Mark Wolfe, a former Republican who switched parties in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

Full primary results are available at the  Virginia Public Access Project


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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