Home 2023 Elections Was VA Sen. Chap Petersen’s Loss to Saddam Salim Tuesday Night a...

Was VA Sen. Chap Petersen’s Loss to Saddam Salim Tuesday Night a Political “Suicide,” “Murder-Suicide” or What? Also, Compare/Contrast to Sen. Creigh Deeds’ Narrow Primary Victory.

Ben Tribbett, Laura Stokes, Sam Shirazi and Cindy Cunningham weigh in....

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In Blue Virginia’s “Political Winners/Losers” list for the 2023 primaries, I talked about how I thought one of the biggest “losers” Tuesday night was Sen. Chap Petersen, while his Democratic primary opponent Saddam Salim and the Salim campaign were among the biggest “winners.” My reasoning was twofold:

  1. Petersen blew it: “Petersen brought most of this on himself, through his bizarre comments about COVID, his lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam, his opposition to an assault weapons ban, his rhetoric against liberals/progressives, his defense of Confederate symbols, having one of the most conservative voting records among VA Senate Democrats, etc, etc. And, in the end, the district’s Democratic voters simply had had enough of Petersen – for good reason(s).”
  2. Salim and his campaign took advantage: Salim’s campaign was “very disciplined and smart; that their messaging and Salim’s bio really resonated with Democratic primary voters; and that they raised enough money to get their message out, even if they didn’t come close to matching Sen. Petersen’s financial resources.”

In other words, I’d argue that it wasn’t one or the other – Petersen blowing it or Salim capitalizing – but some of both. If you want to read more on this debate, see below for threads by Ben Tribbett (who was a close political advisor for Sen. Petersen for many years, although not in this primary), Laura Stokes (who was Salim’s campaign manager), political analyst Sam Shirazi and Blue Virginia contributor/VAPLAN maven Cindy Cunningham. In short:

1) Ben Tribbett argues that Petersen committed “political suicide by “piss[ing] of [the Democratic] base”;

2) Stokes argues that Salim won NOT just because Democratic voters were angry at Petersen, but because Salim “inspired people” and ran a smart campaign;

3) Shirazi argues that “Fairfax changed, but Chap didn’t change with it” while “Salim’s team ran a smart campaign”; and

4) Cunningham points out that, unlike Petersen – who stayed conservative or even moved in a MORE conservative direction, opposite of his district – Sen. Creigh Deeds adapted/changed from years ago, when he was a conservative Dem, to a much more progressive Dem today, and unlike Petersen, narrowly won his primary Tuesday against Del. Sally Hudson.

So what do you think? To what extent do you think Sen. Chap Petersen committed political “suicide,” as opposed to Saddam Salim running a strong campaign? And how would you compare/contrast the Petersen and Deeds results?

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