Takeaways from the Virginia primary election

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A historic number of state lawmakers were ousted in this week’s Virginia primary, which included about four dozen legislative races that set the party’s slate for what will be a hotly contested general election.

Every seat in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate will be on the ballot in November in an election cycle that will help determine how much of his legislative agenda Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin can achieve during his last two years in power.

Virginia is currently politically divided, and its unusual off-year legislative election has drawn outsized national attention as a possible barometer of voter sentiment heading into next year’s midterm and presidential cycle.

Here’s a look at some of the key takeaways from Tuesday’s results and what lies ahead:


It was clear long before Tuesday evening that the General Assembly was heading for a massive turnover, driven by a bipartisan redistricting process that has upended the political maps of the state, contributing to a wave of retirements and diminishing the typical name recognition benefit of incumbents. The defeat of a handful of officials on Tuesday will only add to that turnover.

In the 40-member Senate, for example, at least 15 members will be new.

According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, the number of state senators ousted on Tuesday — five — equaled the number of all senators who had lost a primary election since 1999.


Across the state, voters in Republican races — including a handful of battleground districts — nominated candidates with a center-right approach to outsiders, arsonists and/or far-right extremists .

Of the. Tara Durant beat restaurateur Matt Strickland, who invoked the slogan “crush the establishment” in his bid for a competitive Senate seat in the Fredericksburg area. Of the. Emily Brewer beat out former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler, who criticized her as overly moderate, for nomination to another battleground Senate seat.

And several of the candidates who had most vocally embraced former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 election have been ousted, including Senator Amanda Chase, who called herself “Trump in heels.” Another, Del. Dave LaRock, was considered a top contender for an eight-vote open Senate seat based in the Shenandoah Valley, but he and the rest of the field were beaten by farmer Timmy French, who centered agricultural issues and commercial and education and law enforcement support in his campaign.

A similar dynamic played out in nominations settled earlier through party-led processes.

Tucker Martin, a former longtime Republican strategist, said the results showed voters prioritized “eligibility over entertainment value.” He voiced the widely held view that the GOP has a rocky climb to regain the Senate in the general election, but said the party came out of the night in the “best position possible.”


Democrats have faced more primaries this cycle and found themselves with more turnover, including the ousting of several of the most moderate members of the Senate.

Holders Joe Morrissey, George Barker, Lionell Spruill and Chap Petersen were all defeated, and a run involving a fifth – Jeremy McPike – was too close to call. Petersen’s loss was seen as the biggest surprise – he edged his challenger Saddam Salim by a margin of almost 6 to 1.

If the main winners of those races prevail in the general election, where they will be heavily favored, observers say that will push the Senate Democratic caucus to the left. But none of the losses came in swing districts, where caucus leadership-backed candidates prevailed in two key battleground races.

“While some of our members with whom we have served for years will be missed, we are in a strong position to win the races necessary to protect and expand our majority in the Senate,” Sen. Scott Surovell said in an appeal with the journalists.

Republicans sought to pass off the result as a sign of a party moving hard to the fringe.

“Gone are the reasonable Democrats who would put Virginia first. They were replaced by new candidates who would find like-minded comrades in the nation’s most liberal legislatures,” Youngkin’s political action committee said in a memo on Wednesday.

But there have been some notable exceptions to the trend: in northern Virginia, Del. Suhas Subramanyam easily beat the old Del. Ibraheem Samirah, who criticized him for leading a caucus that included Republicans and aimed to increase bipartisanship. And in a Charlottesville-based seat, longtime incumbent Sen. Creigh Deeds, a moderate who has shifted to the left in recent years on gun issues, defeated progressive challenger Sally Hudson.

Lawmakers also noted that some of the new members likely add to the diversity of the General Assembly, which has increased in recent election cycles.


Abortion rights advocates say Morrissey’s defeat by Lashrecse Aird, a Democrat who previously sponsored a bill that would have restricted abortion access, is another election example of how the issue has been motivating voters since the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Aird centered Morrissey’s position on the issue – rather than his long history of personal controversy – in his campaign and beat him resoundingly.

Morrissey, who supports some access to abortion earlier in a pregnancy, had been seen as a possible swing vote on Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban. His loss and the clear path Aird now has to victory in Virginia’s heavily Democratic 13th Central District means a tougher climb for Youngkin’s plan.

“This is a victory for SD-13 residents, for Virginians, and for access to health care throughout our Southeast region,” said Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, in a press release.


Leaders of both parties quickly turned to the general election battle and previewed their message, with each side describing the other as extremist.

Democratic House Leader Don Scott said his party would push back against Republicans “attacking the right to vote, banning books, attacking kids in the classroom” and a governor who wants to enact tax cuts on companies.

House Speaker Todd Gilbert said Democrats “refuse to hold violent criminals accountable, want higher taxes and parents uninvolved in raising their children.”

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