One of the most important Virginia State Senate races this year will certainly be in SD-7 (96% Virginia Beach, 4% Norfolk; 54% Northam district), which is a strong pickup opportunity for Democrats, probably in the top three pickup opportunities, particularly with the retirement of long-time incumbent Sen. Frank Wagner (R). Three Democrats are seeking the nomination here: Kim Howard, who served as a Navy Commander and worked for 23 years as a Naval Intelligence Officer; Susan Hippen, who had her own 25-year career in the Navy, and has run previously/unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates – in 2013 and 2015; and Del. Cheryl Turpin (HD-85), who is stepping down as delegate (which she was first elected to in 2017) to run for State Senate.
For some excellent analysis of this district, see what Chaz Nuttycombe had to say, here. The bottom line? According to Chaz, SD-7 is going to be a “tough hold for Republicans this year,” with the race likely to “Tilt D” following the Republican and Democratic primaries on June 11. As for the likely Republican nominee, Jen Kiggans, she has hard-right views on women’s reproductive freedom (she says the Kathy Tran video, which she incorrectly refers to using the word “infanticide,” which of course nobody supports, was “the turning point for me” in deciding to run for State Senate), and also uses Fox-style, over-the-top language like “we can’t continue down this path of socialism” and “I missed the memo that women did not have equal rights…I don’t need a piece of paper…I think the ERA could overturn some laws…that benefit women”) that is the absolutely LAST thing we need in the Virginia State Senate! So no matter which Democrat wins the nomination on June 11, it’s crucial that we help elect them on November 11.
Having said that…after researching the candidates, I’ve decided to make an endorsement in the SD-7 Democratic primary: Kim Howard. My thinking?
- Electability, electability, electability. In this military-heavy district, having a retired Navy Commander and 23-year Naval Intelligence Officer as our nominee, particularly against Jen Kiggans (who served in the Navy as a helicopter pilot), seems like the best “match-up” to me. Evidence that it can work? How about this past November, when Democrat Elaine Luria, a…yep, former Navy Commander (sensing a theme here?), defeated Rep. Scott Taylor (R), a former Navy Seal, in VA-02, which covers a lot of the same ground as SD-7? For my money, I’d say let’s try that formula again this year and see how it goes. 🙂
- Strong on the issues. Having chatted with Kim Howard and perused her website, I’m confident that she’s strong on the issues. For instance, one of her top issues is dealing with the climate crisis, and she fully understands that the “realities of climate change and sea level rise are matters of economic security and military readiness.” Howard will also be a strong advocate for veterans, public education, building a sustainable 21st-century economy, and “clos[ing] the economic inequity gap by advocating for fair wages, improve infrastructure to maximize Coastal Virginia’s economic development potential, and recruit small businesses.” From talking to her, it sounds like Howard has no particular differences on the issues with her main Democratic primary rival, Cheryl Turpin. In other words, they each are highly likely to be strong progressives in the State Senate. So basically, again, it comes down to which candidate is more electable, and I think that is Howard.
- Endorsements…or lack thereof. I find it striking how few, if any, elected officials have endorsed in this race. Usually, I just assume that Democratic delegates will support their fellow delegates when they run for higher office. In this case, though, I’m not seeing any indication of that on Turpins’ website or Twitter feed. I’m also not seeing it from the main progressive and environmental groups, at least not so far (with just 13 days to go until the primary). It’s weird, because groups like NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia *have* endorsed in other contested Democratic primaries, such as for Ghazala Hashmi in SD-10 and Debra Rodman in SD-12, but not that I’m seeing in this race. I’m not sure exactly why that is the case, but the way I’m reading it is that these groups might see Kim Howard as at least as strong a candidate – and at least as strong on the issues – as Cheryl Turpin, so they’re just staying out of it. (note: I’ve also heard that Turpin simply might not be asking for endorsements)
- Debates…or lack thereof. My understanding is that there have been several Democratic forums/debates so far, attended by two of the three candidates – Howard and Hippen, but not Turpin. What’s *that* all about? Whatever it is, I’m not a fan of it.
- Website quality…or lack thereof. This might not seem like a big thing, but looking a the two candidates’ websites, Howard’s is much better than Turpin’s. The latter, for instance, has no issues section at all, which isn’t good.
Anyway, the bottom line is I think Howard’s as strong on the issues as Turpin is, but is more electable in November, as she’s got a great profile for this military-heavy district. It worked with former Navy Commander Elaine Luria, so maybe I’m missing something here, but why not give it a shot with former Navy Commander Kim Howard as well?