- Virginia’s state legislative primaries on Tuesday are facing new challenges due to unprecedented redistricting by the state Supreme Court in 2021.
- This year is the first time Virginia’s General Assembly faces an election with the new districts, prompting mass retirements, incumbents facing each other and delegates running for the state Senate, resulting in a possible generational shift in leadership, state GOP experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “I think it’s the most disruptive election year we’ve seen in Virginia in generations, if not centuries. It’s going to be extremely disruptive,” Jeff Frederick, former chairman of the Virginia GOP and former Virginia state delegate, told the DCNF.
Virginia’s Tuesday state legislative primaries are facing unprecedented challenges due to redistricting, causing mass vacancies and lawmakers having to compete in new territory, GOP state experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The state’s Supreme Court redrew voting districts in 2021, and Tuesday’s primaries are the first time Virginia’s General Assembly has had an election since. The new districts have caused mass retirements, incumbents facing each other and state House members running for state Senate, prompting a likely generational shift in state leadership, according to Virginia Republican operatives.
“I think it’s the most disruptive election year we’ve seen in Virginia in generations, if not centuries. It’s going to be extremely disruptive,” Jeff Frederick, former chairman of the Virginia GOP and former Virginia state delegate, told the DCNF. “This is like a fucking landmine, I mean, it’s everywhere.”
There are seven districts holding Republican primaries for the state Senate and nine for the House of Delegates, while 15 districts are holding Democratic primaries for the state Senate and 16 for the state House, according to Virginia’s Department of Elections. Two districts are facing incumbent matchups, nearly 30 state lawmakers chose to retire, and more than a dozen delegates are now running for the state Senate, according to Virginia Mercury.
The biggest challenges these primary candidates are facing is garnering name recognition in their newly-drawn districts, which has created a “fundraising bonanza,” Chris Saxman, executive director of Virginia FREE and former Virginia state delegate, told the DCNF.
Frederick said there are many younger candidates coming in and saying “fuck the Virginia way, we’re going to do it a new way.” Along with this “generational shift,” Saxman said that the primary results will provide insight into the “speed at which the Democratic Party is moving to the left,” and how strong of an influence former President Donald Trump has with GOP legislators; Saxman argued Virginia’s primaries are important to look at from a national standpoint because Virginia is a “bellwether.”
“About 90% of the seats will be determined [tonight], or by [tonight]. Some have already been determined, because the nomination is the general election for all intents and purposes,” said Saxman. “The vast majority of seats in Virginia legislative districts are in can’t lose, can’t win districts — the incumbent party can’t lose them and a challenging party can’t win them, period.”
Virginia was considered a red state until former President Barack Obama flipped the state blue in 2008, and in 2016 and 2020, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden won the state’s electoral votes for president. In 2021, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin succeeded Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, beating his opponent by a narrow 2 point margin, according to Ballotpedia.
Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the state House and Democrats hold a narrow majority in the state Senate, and Youngkin is hoping to hold the House and flip the Senate in November. Youngkin has made a long list of GOP primary endorsements, and is backing 20 candidates for state Senate and 46 for the state House, according to a press release obtained by the DCNF from the governor’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee (PAC).
Youngkin has been “very effective” in getting his “preferred nominees” on the ballot, and his endorsements will really make a difference here because the Republican primaries aren’t as issue-based, said Saxman. Frederick and Saxman said more of the ideological in-party fighting is occurring in the Democratic Party, specifically on the issue of abortion.
Youngkin released an advertisement video on Twitter in mid-May sponsored by his state PAC, where he promised to “usher in a new era of American values,” while drawing on themes from former President Ronald Reagan. The campaign-like video revamped rumors that Youngkin was still considering running for president in 2024, and reports emerged that an announcement wouldn’t come until after the state’s elections in November. (RELATED: Glenn Youngkin Reveals Whether He Has Presidential Ambitions ‘This Year’)
“We’ll be driving awareness on Governor Youngkin’s leadership style and discussion on some key issues – like parents and education,” an advisor familiar with the governor’s political operation told the DCNF. “We’re continuing the conversation with key constituencies of the Youngkin coalition – swing voters and Republicans who are critical to our turnout efforts in the fall.”
Frederick believes the election is “marginally favoring the Democrats,” and said if the Republicans win in November, it’ll only be by one or two seats.
“Whoever wins the primary, they’re probably going to win the general,” said Frederick.
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