Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

5th District GOP primary results remain too close to call

The Russo cast their votes
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Torey Russo, left, casts his vote along with his wife, Katherine “Kathy” Russo, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 at First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, Virginia.

Updated 2:35 p.m., June 19: It's coming down to provisional and absentee ballots.

On Tuesday, Virginia voters set the ballot for the November general election.

Though the fall election will feature congressional House, Senate and presidential races — on top of local public offices — Tuesday's primary focused largely on Democrat and Republican congressional races featuring multiple candidates vying for their party's nod.

And by the night's end, most of those races even had results.

5th Congressional District

Republican incumbent Bob Good, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, currently represents Virginia’s 5th District, which includes the Charlottesville area and stretches south toward Lynchburg and Danville in Virginia's Southside region.

State Sen. John McGuire, who's served in the General Assembly since 2018, joined the race after statements to the contrary during his 2023 Virginia Senate campaign. He said his bid was the result of voters being upset with Good’s decision to endorse Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — not former President Donald Trump, with whom he had been previously aligned.

Political observers had circled the Republican primary on their calendars as a hot contest partly because of the DeSantis endorsement. Although Good threw his support back to Trump following DeSantis' exit, Trump openly campaigned against him by endorsing and supporting McGuire.

As of Wednesday afternoon, unofficial election returns have proved those expectations correct: 309 votes (0.5%) separate incumbent and challenger, with McGuire leading 31,377 votes (50.25%) to Good's 31,068 votes (49.75%). Should that margin hold through the end of this week — the deadline for absentee ballots postmarked by June 18 — the race will be eligible for recounting.

On top of that, complaints about election security have cropped up from both GOP candidates and their supporters, including about the ongoing race. Speaking to VPM News over the weekend during a final wave of campaigning, McGuire said, “certainly there are questions to be raised” about the integrity of results.

Good was among the Republican contingent in Congress that objected to certifying the results of 2020's presidential election in President Joe Biden's favor, claiming that six states had cast “questionable or unreliable” Electoral College votes.

Virginia does not automatically recount votes. In the case of this election, the candidate referred to by state code as the “apparent loser” can request a recount if they received less than 1% difference of the votes cast for them and the projected winner. A recount can only be requested after the voting results have been certified, and depending on the margin, either the candidate or local governments will pay for it.

An estimated $11 million was spent on the Good–McGuire primary this cycle, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

On Tuesday night, both GOP camps hosted watch parties in Lynchburg.

It was an energetic scene at the Virginian Hotel where McGuire’s supporters gathered. The vote seemed promising shortly after polls closed for McGuire, who has described himself as fearless, unapologetic and a Christian conservative.

The former Navy SEAL gained several high-profile national endorsements from Trump and ex–House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — whom Good helped oust from congressional leadership in 2023 — as well as locally by Lynchburg Mayor Stephanie Reed.

By 11:45 p.m., McGuire had announced his victory over Good, though a campaign statement released shortly afterward acknowledged the more complicated reality: “There are still a few votes left to count, but it’s clear that all paths end with a victory. Folks in the 5th District can rest assured that should they elect me in November, they will have an effective fighter in Congress who will get the job done for them.”

Across town at Good's party, the mood at La Villa Italian Restaurant went from worry to jubilation — then back to worry until shortly before McGuire's announcement, when Good was trailing the state senator by roughly 300 votes in unofficial returns.

Good left his own party before midnight without talking to about a dozen reporters who had gathered outside. Neither he nor his spokesperson offered an explanation.

However, in a post on one of Good’s campaign social media pages, the Republican incumbent is still waiting on election results.

“We implemented the best early voting operation that the 5th District has ever seen, and we are still waiting for the results of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots. We are doing what we can to ensure we have teams of observers and legal counsel to ensure all the votes are properly counted in the coming days,” read part of the post.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will face businesswoman Gloria Witt, Tuesday's victor in the 5th District's Democratic primary, in November.

Editor's note: This race is still ongoing as of June 19. Valid primary ballots may arrive and be counted through Friday, June 21. Please check back for updates.

election workers wait for voters to arrive
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Election workers wait for votes to arrive on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia.

1st Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. Rob Wittman is running unopposed for the Republican nomination to represent the 1st Congressional District. Residents of Virginia’s peninsulas are represented in the district, which stretches through Richmond’s northern and western suburbs before hooking through to Chesterfield.

Two Democrats were seeking the party’s nomination and to unseat Wittman, who has been in Congress since 2007: Leslie Mehta and Herb Jones

Cole Delinski had researched the candidates and said, “Sometimes with primaries, I feel like the word doesn't get out enough — I was a little bit blindsided by this one.”

Delinski was one of a handful of voters at Pocahontas Middle School.

He eventually settled on voting for Mehta, a civil rights attorney, after weighing the fact that she had defended right-wing protesters before the 2017 Unite the Right protest, with candidate Jones’ previous defeat by Wittman.

Jones won the votes of Walter Jackson and Patricia “PJ” Jackson, who knew the retired U.S. Army colonel from his previous campaigns. She said Jones had a great history and “deserves an opportunity to serve us in the Congress.”

Walter took an upbeat, optimistic tone after voting in Chesterfield, praising President Joe Biden.

“America is on the verge of a renaissance, and he's gonna lead it,” he said.

The Jacksons voted at Swift Creek Middle School, where poll workers were in an upbeat mood despite it being “slow.”

The Associated Press called the race at 8:20 p.m. for Mehta.

A person exits a polling station as a sign that reads “POLLING PLACE. VOTE HERE 6AM to 7pm TODAY”
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
A person exits a polling station on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Strong Tower Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

7th Congressional District

Democrat Eugene Vindman issued the first race call for the party’s primary Tuesday night — for himself. At approximately 7:50, Vindman issued a post to social media declaring himself the winner. By 8:06 p.m., the Associated Press had done the same.

Virginia’s 7th District is currently represented by Rep. Abigail Spanberger. The Democrat is not running for a fourth House term and will instead run for governor in 2025.

Spanberger’s office emailed a statement congratulating Vindman on his primary win Tuesday night: “Serving the people of Virginia’s Seventh District has been the greatest honor of my life. Now, I look forward to working with Eugene Vindman to make sure Virginians continue to have strong, responsive, and commonsense representation in Congress.”

It was a crowded field of candidates vying for Spanberger’s seat: Republican voters had six candidates to choose from, while Democrats had seven.

The Associated Press called the 7th District's Republican primary for combat veteran Derrick Anderson.

Doris Sessoms voted at First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, which she also attends as a parishioner. She said she’s been voting since 1969, only missing elections when she was out of the country.

All Sessoms had to do to find the right candidate was look across the pews.

“Well, the person I vote for I’ve known for sometime, we’re both members of this church,” Sessoms said.

Sessoms voted for Democrat Andrea Bailey, a Prince William County supervisor whose platform incorporates affordable health care, mental health care and support for teachers.

Sessoms arrives to cast her vote
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Doris Sessoms arrives to cast her vote on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, Virginia.

Jacki Wallo is another consistent voter and was proud to share that she now has 12 voting-age members of her immediate family. She voted at Strong Tower Church in Stafford County, and said it took some work to pick a candidate.

“But we do our research and try to talk to people, especially locally, who might know the candidates and make the best choice we can,” Wallo said.

Wallo didn’t say who she voted for.

Winners of the 7th District primaries will face off for the most competitive House of Representatives seat in the state, according to the VPAP.

Senate GOP primary

The Associated Press called the Republican nomination for Hung Cao shortly after polls closed Tuesday. Cao, a Navy veteran who has questioned the validity of the 2020 presidential election, will face two-term incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine this fall.

Cao’s campaign website indicates that he would put tariffs on Chinese goods and pursue fossil fuels and other energy sources in the US. It says Cao will “always protect the right to self-defense,” regarding firearm regulation.

He also received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump in late May.

At two polling stations in Richmond’s eastern suburbs, a contested area which is mixed politically, no voters mentioned Cao to VPM News.

Kaine, who was campaigning Tuesday, attended multiple primary night watch parties in Fredericksburg and Richmond. As the incumbent and with no Democrats challenging his campaign, he did not have a primary and advances directly to the general election.

U.S. Sen.  Kaine. performs at a bar
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine plays the harmonica during an election night watch party on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 at Harly’m BlueZ in Richmond.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
Billy Shields is a multimedia journalist with VPM News Focal Point.
VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
Related Stories