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Bagby wins Democratic primary for McClellan's Senate seat

A person wearing a gray suit speaks in front of branding for the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico) speaks to reporters after winning the Democratic primary to fill Rep.-elect Jennifer McClellan's state Senate seat.

Del. Lamont Bagby will advance to a March special general election against GOP nominee Stephen Imholt.

Del. Lamont Bagby (D–Henrico) defeated two opponents in a firehouse primary Sunday to advance to a March special general election for the blue-leaning, Richmond-based 9th Senate District of Virginia against GOP nominee Stephen Imholt.

The 9th SD seat in the 40-member, Democrat-controlled state Senate is open due to Sen. Jennifer McClellan's (D–Richmond) election to the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Candidates had just days to officially campaign for the nomination contests after McClellan handed in a resignation letter. The special election timeline was set on Wednesday.

Bagby, who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2015, is chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. After securing a wide slate of endorsements from party establishment figures, he won with about 72% percent of the more than 6,500 votes cast, according to a party news release sent after vote-counting ended late Sunday night.

“Richmond, Henrico, Hanover and Charles City- WE DID IT! Thank you all for the overwhelming support you gave me today. I can’t wait to get to work as your next State Senator after we win the special election next month," Bagby tweeted.

Both of his opponents, party activist Alexsis Rodgers and Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond), conceded and congratulated Bagby.

GOP nominee Imholt is a retired senior project manager who previously ran for the House of Delegates in 2015, the Republican Party of Virginia said in a news release announcing his selection as the GOP's nominee.

He previously served in local government in Rockford, Illinois.

“It’s crucial that Republicans retake the Senate of Virginia in order to fulfill Governor [Glenn] Youngkin’s vision for rejuvenating the spirit of Virginia," RPV Chair Rich Anderson said in a statement. "Republicans across the 9th Senate District stand with Steve and will work at his side to ensure that Virginia is the best place in the nation to live, work, and raise a family."

The special election will take place Tuesday, March 28. Should Imholt succeed in what will be an uphill battle to flip the seat, it would not impact the balance of power in the chamber. The nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project rates the district strongly Democratic.

The winner of that race will fill the remainder of McClellan's term. While the regular legislative session ended Saturday, the winner will be in place for the April reconvened session, when lawmakers meet to consider Youngkin's proposed amendments and vetoes, as well as any special session.

All 140 General Assembly seats will be on the ballot in November, when candidates will be running under new lines created during the redistricting process.

McClellan's election to Congress came after the death last year of Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin. Bagby initially announced his candidacy for that race but then dropped out and threw his support to McClellan.

That led another contender, Sen. Joe Morrissey, to allege the party was “anointing and appointing” to block his candidacy.