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Virginians vote in new districts' primaries

Diana Charles at a voting booth in front of a mural featuring mountains and rivers.
Carlos Bernate
For VPM News
Diane Charles casts her primary election ballot at Woodville Elementary School on June 20, 2023 in Richmond.

All of the General Assembly’s 140 seats are up for grabs this year.

Tuesday’s slight precipitation didn’t prevent primary election voters from casting ballots in Virginia’s first election using newly redrawn districts.

All of the General Assembly’s 140 seats are up for election this year, putting the statehouse — and the direction of the commonwealth’s policies — at stake for the next two years. It’s an off-year election that national political observers are looking to for signals ahead of the 2024 election.

Many of Virginia’s redrawn districts initially pitted longtime state lawmakers against one another. That led to a slew of political resignations and retirements after the General Assembly closed regular session in late February.

But not every incumbent participated, which is why some of the new district lines feature familiar names vying for the same spot. In Virginia’s 12th Senate District, former state Sen. Glen Sturtevant and former congressional candidate Tina Ramirez are hoping to take the Republican nomination from state Sen. Amanda Chase, who currently represents most of the voters in the new 12th district.

The winner will face Democrat Natan McKenzie in the general election.

Virginia Ritter of Midlothian voted for Chase at Midlothian High School. Chase is one of the upper chamber’s most conservative members and made a name for herself as an iconoclast. The state senator, who was a featured speaker at the rally prior to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, has also touted election conspiracy theories — which led to her censure in 2021.

“I'm looking for somebody who's got courage to say what they think,” said Ritter. She said she was voting in the primary “because we need to get the best people we can.”

Rebecca Aldred planned to vote for a different candidate.

“I'm going to vote for Tina Ramirez because I thought she seemed the one that most likely reflected what I feel is best for the state of Virginia,” said Aldred, who saw Ramirez as the best prospective legislator for enacting Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda.

As previously reported, state Sen. Joe Morrissey and former Del. Lashrecse Aird are competing in the redrawn SD 13, which includes Petersburg and Hopewell. Another contentious local Virginia Senate race is in Richmond and Henrico’s 14th SD, where Sen. Lamont Bagby and the Pace Center’s Katie Gooch are campaigning.

The Greater Richmond Region, particularly, has fielded some half-dozen primary and special elections in the last several months. This is Bagby’s third election of 2023: He won a firehouse primary and a special election earlier this year for a different Senate district. (And because that election occurred so close to this June primary, Bagby’s former House seat has lain empty since.)

After voting in Richmond’s East End at Woodville Elementary School, Diana Charles said that education and gun safety were on her mind when she decided to vote.

“Nobody understands a gun until it takes away their child,” said Charles, who declined to say who she voted for.

Voters for the 79th House District also voted at this precinct. Richmond attorney Rae Cousins, Richmond City Councilor Ann-Frances Lambert and activist Richard Walker are each hoping to enter the Legislature for the first time.

Election workers were upbeat at both the Midlothian and East End precincts, although they said things seemed slow.

Richmond Electoral Board Vice Chair John Ambrose, who was visiting the Woodville Elementary School precinct, said that some precincts had only a handful of voters.

Election officials said that there hadn’t been any major issues with voting.

“Today has been delightfully uneventful,” Richmond General Registrar Keith Balmer told VPM News.

As of 3 p.m., 5,932 voters had turned out for in-person voting in the City of Richmond, according to Balmer. He expected there to be slightly more than 7,000 voters by the end of the day; polls closed at 7 p.m., though state electoral law permits eligible voters in line at that time to vote.

Accounting for about 4,000 early votes that had been received either through in-person early voting, or absentee or voting by mail, Balmer expected there to be about 4,100 or 4,200 early votes.

Winners in Tuesday’s primary elections will be on the ballot in November.

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