Home 2021 Elections Top 22 Things to Watch This Coming Tuesday Night in Virginia’s Primary...

Top 22 Things to Watch This Coming Tuesday Night in Virginia’s Primary Elections

How high will turnout be? Who will win the Dem primaries for gov, LG and AG? How well will HoD incumbents do? How will the "proxy war" between Dominion and Clean Virginia play out?


Democrats hold statewide, House of Delegates and local primaries this coming Tuesday, with polls opening at 6 am. Also, Republicans will hold several primaries for House of Delegates on the same date. What should we be keeping an eye on?  See below for my top 20…and feel free to add your own in the comments section!

  1. What will Democratic voter turnout be? Four years ago, there were 542,858 votes cast in the Virginia Dems’ gubernatorial primary between Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello. Also on the ballot four years ago were a slew of House of Delegates primaries – as people stepped up to “run for something” following Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March, etc. – and the Dems’ LG primary between Justin Fairfax, Susan Platt and Gene Rossi. The question is, will turnout this coming Tuesday be higher or lower than four years ago? I’m rooting for higher, or at least not much lower, as a sign that Democrats are still tuned in, energized, vigilant, etc., at a time when Trump’s no longer president but when Trump and Trumpism are at LEAST as much a threat as ever. Also, how much larger will Democratic turnout be on Tuesday than the ~30k Republicans who showed up on May 8th for their ridiculous “unassembled convention?”
  2. Will Terry McAuliffe win a majority of Democratic primary votes for governor? In a five-way field, with no Ranked Choice Voting, that seems unlikely, but I’ve heard that McAuliffe is within striking distance of getting to 50%+ of the vote this Tuesday. If not, how big will McAuliffe’s (likely) victory margin be?  And yes, it’s assumed by everyone, as well as reflected in public polling and the PredictIt market, that McAuliffe is the overwhelming favorite (99 cents over at PredictIt, with everyone else at 1 cent).
  3. Who will finish second to McAuliffe, and what percentage will they get? I’m betting on a muddled finish on Tuesday for the four candidates not named Terry McAuliffe, and I’m unclear who will finish second. There’s been VERY little public polling of this race, for whatever reasons, but what polling there is has generally shown LG Justin Fairfax, Jennifer McClellan and Jennifer Carroll Foy battling it out for second place, in the upper single digits, with Lee Carter most likely finishing last, in the low single digits. Will those polls prove accurate? Will any of the candidates not name Terry McAuliffe break out of the pack and maybe get into the 20% range? It will be interesting to see…
  4. Who will win the Dems’ LG race, and with what kind of percentage? Again, there’s not Ranked Choice Voting – and don’t even get me started on that topic, but it’s completely absurd that someone can become our nominee with only 20%, 25%, whatever of the vote. Ugh.  Anyway, who will win this race? We have almost no polling to go on here, but PredictIt has Del. Sam Rasoul as the big favorite (77 cents), followed by Del. Hala Ayala (16 cents), Del. Mark Levine (9 cents), Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan (1 cent), Sean Perryman (1 cent) and Xavier Warren (1 cent). Will this field be a muddle, or will someone – Sam Rasoul? – pull way in the closing days of this campaign? Will Mark Levine move up, given that he’s spending a lot of (his own) money to go up on TV, send out mailers, etc? Any other surprises here?  Can Ayala still win, despite her recent stumbles (e.g., a difficult final debate, taking money from Dominion Energy after having pledged not to do so), given her endorsements by Gov. Ralph Northam, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, etc?
  5. Will AG Mark Herring win easily, or will it be a close race with Del. Jay Jones? Based on polling and PredictIt (where he’s at 81 cents), Herring should win on Tuesday night, but how close will the race be? In 2013, Herring won his first primary for AG – against Justin Fairfax – by just under 4 points, but this time around, he’s the two-term incumbent with a long record of accomplishment, including fighting back hard against Trump’s outrages, whereas in 2013, he was not well known. Still, Jones has run an aggressive and well-funded campaign, has been endorsed by Gov. Northam, etc. So…the bottom line is that Herring should win, but the margin of victory is a question.
  6. How important will big endorsements turn out to be? Gov. Northam, for instance, endorsed Terry McAuliffe for governor, Hala Ayala for Lt. Governor and Jay Jones for AG – how many of those will win on Tuesday?
  7. How will incumbents/de facto incumbents do on Tuesday? For instance, Terry McAuliffe is the de facto incumbent for governor, while Mark Herring is running for reelection as AG. Also, see below for more detail on a bunch of House of Delegates primaries, as well as a couple big local primaries (for Alexandria Mayor and Arlington County Board).  How many incumbents/de facto incumbents  – if any – will lose on Tuesday?
  8. What style/tone of campaigning will prove more successful?  For instance, will a positive/upbeat style/tone be more effective than campaigns based on anger/grievance/”negativity?” How about “identity politics” vs. other things, such as experience, policy proposals, etc?
  9.  Who will win the “proxy war” between Dominion Energy and anti-Dominion forces, mostly Clean Virginia (and its funder Michael Bills), Sonja Smith (Bills’ wife) and Commonwealth Forward (which is funded heavily by Clean Virginia)? For instance, Jennifer Carroll Foy’s top two donors have been Clean Virginia and Sonja Smith, and Jay Jones’ top two donors (other than money from his own accounts) has been…yep, Clean Virginia and Sonja Smith. Also, keep an eye on major battles between Dominion and Clean Virginia in HD2 (Del. Candi King is supported by Dominion, while challenger Pamela Montgomery is heavily supported by Clean Virginia and its allies) and in HD79 (Del. Steve Heretick is supported by Dominion, while challenger Nadarius Clark is heavily supported by Clean Virginia and its allies). In general, will all that (boatload of) money spent by Bills/Smith pay off on Tuesday, or will it not result in any – or many – victories?
  10.  How many Democratic incumbent members of the Virginia House of Delegates end up losing their primaries? As I explained here, 14 House of Delegates Democratic incumbents are being primaried – in HD2 (Del. Candi King vs. Pamela Montgomery), HD31 (Del. Elizabeth Guzman vs. Rod Hall, Kar Pitek and Idris O’Connor), HD34 (Del. Kathleen Murphy vs. Jennifer Adeli), HD36 (Del. Ken Plum vs. Mary Barthelson), HD38 (Del. Kaye Kory vs. Holly Hazard), HD45 (Del. Mark Levine vs. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker), HD49 (Del. Alfonso Lopez vs. Karishma Mehta), HD50 (Del. Lee Carter vs. Michelle Maldonado and Helen Zurita), HD68 (Del. Dawn Adams vs. Kyle Elliott), HD71 (Del. Jeff Bourne vs. Richard Walker), HD74 (Del. Lamont Bagby vs. John Dantzler), HD79 (Del. Steve Heretick vs. Nadarius Clark and Dante Walson), HD86 (Del. Ibraheem Samirah vs. Irene Shin) and HD89 (Del. Jay Jones vs. Hannah Kinder). Of these, at least four – HD36, HD71, HD74 and HD89 – look noncompetitive, with incumbents who should win overwhelmingly. Several others are possibly competitive, while a few others are VERY competitive; see below for more on those. Note that incumbents rarely lose reelection, so if more than 1 or 2 Democratic incumbents lose on Tuesday, that will be pretty unusual.
  11.  Will Del. Mark Levine (D-HD45) lose his House of Delegates seat to Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker? If so, will Levine’s decision to run for *both* Lt. Governor *and* reelection in HD45 (Alexandria/Arlington) come back to haunt him? From everything I’m hearing, Bennett-Parker definitely has a shot, and in fact might even be the slight favorite, in this race. Part of it will come down to who shows up to vote – how large an electorate, what the composition of it will be, etc – and also to what extent people go for the female candidate over the male candidate/incumbent, etc. Note that there’s not much, if any, ideological difference between these two candidates, so that’s certainly not the issue here…
  12. Will Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-HD86; Fairfax County, Loudoun County) lose his House of Delegates seat to Democratic challenger Irene Shin? From everything I’m hearing, this one’s also shaping up to potentially be a very close race. Again, it will be interesting to see if a female candidate beats a male candidate/incumbent. Also, this race has featured an outside PAC (as the Virginia Mercury calls it, “a shadowy PAC with ties to a national group dedicated to supporting centrist candidates“) hitting Samirah hard on his votes, etc. We’ll see if that ends up being effective, backfiring, or what.
  13. Will Del. Candi King (D-HD2; Prince William County/Stafford County), who was first elected last December, lose her House of Delegates seat to Democratic challenger Pamela Montgomery?  As noted above, this is a MAJOR proxy battle between Dominion and Clean Virginia/allies. It’s also become a battle between the House Democratic Caucus (which strongly supports Del. King) and Michael Bills/Sonja Smith/Clean VA (who strongly supports Pamela Montgomery). There have been a ton of negative mailers in this one, and a LOT of money spent, so definitely a heated race here. Stay tuned Tuesday night for the results in this one!
  14.  Will Del. Steve Heretick (D-HD79; Chesapeake/Portsmouth/Norfolk), a relatively conservative and pro-Dominion Dem, lose his House of Delegates seat to the challenge from his left by Nadarius Clark (who is *heavily* backed by Clean Virginia and its allies)? Also note that Clark is Black and far more progressive than Heretick, who is white and one of the most conservative Democrats in the House of Delegates.
  15.  Will Del. Lee Carter (D-HD50; Prince William County, Manassas) who is also running for governor – lose his House of Delegates seat to one of his Democratic challengers, most likely Michelle Maldonado? Carter has mostly been focused on his governor campaign, and has raised very little money for his House of Delegates race. We’ll see if Maldonado can take advantage of this, although note that there’s another Democratic candidate (Helen Zurita) in the race, which could split the anti-incumbent vote, as we saw when Yasmine Taeb almost defeated Sen. Dick Saslaw in June 2019, but barely lose when another progressive challenger (Karen Torrent) helped split the anti-incumbent vote.
  16. Will Del. Dawn Adams (D-HD68) lose her House of Delegates seat to Democratic challenger Kyle Elliott?  I don’t have a good feel for this race, but in terms of fundraising, Elliott’s certainly been competitive with Adams. I’m assuming Adams remains the favorite here, but I really have no idea and wouldn’t be surprised if Elliott pulled the upset.
  17. Will there be any surprises in Democratic House of Delegates primaries? Maybe Jennifer Adeli will give Del. Kathleen Murphy a run for her money in HD34 (although Murphy’s strongly favored, from what I’m hearing)? Maybe Rod Hall will upset Del. Elizabeth Guzman in HD31 (although Guzman’s strongly favored, from what I’m hearing)? Anything else? Challenger Holly Hazard vs. Del. Kaye Kory in HD38?
  18. In general, will we see any trends in Democratic House of Delegates primaries, such as when we had the “year of the woman” in 2017, 2018 and 2019? Will we see Black or Brown candidates tend to beat white candidates? Candidates who are more to the “left” beat more “moderate” or progressive Dems? We’ll see…
  19. How about the Republican House of Delegates primaries? I haven’t been following these closely, but based on this article and what I’m hearing, it seems like we should keep an eye on the primary against Del. Charles Poindexter (R-HD9) from his FAR right, by William Wren, “a lawyer who represented the Trump-campaign during the Wisconsin recount.”  If Wren beats the VERY conservative Poindexter, it’s yet another sign of the Republicans going completely off the far-right deep end.  Also keep an eye on HD68 – conservative Republican Mark Earley, Jr. (son of former Virginia AG Mark Earley) vs. hard-right Mike Dickinson and HD 83 – Republicans Chris Stolle, Tim Anderson (Amanda Chase’s lawyer – ’nuff said!) and Phil Kazmierczak.
  20.  Will Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson defeat former Mayor Allison Silberberg in their rematch from three years ago? If so – and it seems likely that Wilson will prevail – by how big a margin?
  21.  Who will win seats (note: the general election is in November, but in an overwhelmingly “blue” city, the primary’s basically the “ballgame”) on the Alexandria City Council? The Democratic candidates are Alyia Gaskins, incumbent John Taylor Chapman, incumbent Canek AguirreR. Kirk McPike, incumbent Amy JacksonSarah R. BagleyJames C. Lewis, Jr.Meronne E. Teklu, William “Bill” RosselloKevin HarrisWilliam E. “Bill” CampbellMark Leo ShifferPatrick B. Moran.
  22.  Will Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis (D) – who I’ve strongly endorsed – defeat the challenge by Chanda Choun (D)? If so – and it seems highly likely that Karantonis will win – by what margin? Note that Karantonis defeated Choun and two other candidates (Barbara Kanninen, Nicole Merlene) last May, so this is a rematch…

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