Home 2024 Elections Political Winners and Losers: Virginia Primary Elections June 2024

Political Winners and Losers: Virginia Primary Elections June 2024

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Here are a few winners and losers that I believe are worth highlighting from the most recent Virginia election cycle. Note that this list isn’t even close to comprehensive – nor is it intended to be – so please add winners and losers of your own in the comments section if you’d like; I’m sure I missed some, maybe a bunch! By the way, it’s important to point out that you can be a “winner” even if you’re a right-wing Republican (e.g., McDonnell and Cuccinelli in 2009 – or Youngkin in 2021 – were “winners,” even though they suck!) or whatever, and that you can be a “loser” even if you’re the greatest (or my favorite) Democrat in the world, because in this context “winner” and “loser” is all about whether someone “won” or “lost” politically in this election cycle, not whether that makes me happy or not or whether it’s normatively a “good” or “bad” thing, per se. Also, the lists aren’t in any particular order, except of course for the biggest loser from this election, which you can see below and is VERY obvious. 😉

Oh, one more thing – I’ve always asked people for their opinions, so some of the following aren’t originally by me, but I’ve chosen to include them (in quotes/italics when they’re someone else’s wording) because I thought they were interesting, because I agreed with them in full or part, etc.. Still, you’re welcome to blame me if you don’t like them. LOL

P.S. I’m obviously not going to include everyone who won or lost a primary in these lists, but only ones that jump out at me for whatever reasons.

Winners

1. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10): “Her endorsement carried the weight and was the validator in Loudoun to lock down support.” When I heard that Rep. Wexton had endorsed State Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, my initial response to several people was, “that’s game/set/match, right?”  In the end, it almost certainly made the difference in a close race with Del. Dan Helmer, who outspent Subramanyam and ended up finishing second by just 3.6 points. More broadly, Wexton is a “Winner” in every other sense of the word, including her courage in the face of a life-threatening illness, her great work for the 10th Congressional district, her incredibly successful political career, including her January 2014 special election win for State Senate, her reelection to the State Senate in November 2015, her Democratic nomination for VA10 in June 2018 and her win over Barbara Comstock in November 2018, plus her reelections in 2020 and 2022. Anyway, thanks to Jennifer Wexton for all her amazing service to Virginia, and good luck going forward – we’re all pulling for her!

2. Eugene Vindman: “Ran strong and won every county. Grew as a candidate, and will have the resources necessary to hold the seat.” From the beginning of this primary, my view was that it was Vindman (with a national profile and tons of $$$) against a scattered field of local candidates, each of whom (Del. Briana Sewell, PW Supervisors Andrea Bailey and Margaret Angela Franklin, plus former Del. Elizabeth Guzman) has some following, but not much money. And that’s pretty much the way it turned out, with Vindman coming close to 50% of the vote, followed by Guzman at 15% and Sewell at 13%. So, a dominating, impressive win for Vindman, who we now all need to support for the general election this November, in a district that’s “purple” and definitely not safe-Democratic.

3. Suhas Subramanyam: His solid base in Loudoun County, the heart of the 10th congressional district, plus a crucial endcorsement from highly popular incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10), helped boost Subramanyam to victory in a crowded field of fellow legislators, a former VA Secretary of Education, etc. Subramanyam will likely win handily this November – and represent this district quite possibly for many years to come. Quite impressive from somebody who first ran for office just 5 years ago (to succeed then-Delegate John Bell, who was running for State Senate), and was just elected to the State Senate in November 2023. Wow.

4. John McGuire: This guy is an insurrectionist who was literally in the pro-Trump mob outside the US Capitol on 1/6/21. He’s also been a completely ineffective legislator in the Virginia General Assembly. But in today’s Republican Party, just about all that matters is being loyal to the Dear Leader, Donald Trump, and that helped boost McGuire over incumbent Rep. Bob Good (R-VA05) to almost certainly (pending a possible recount) be the next Congressman from the 5th congressional district. What a steep decline in quality from Tom Perriello, just a few years ago but feels like an eternity…

5. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11): “85% for any incumbent, especially in this climate with the Squad and Justice Dems screaming unconditional unilateral ceasefire, is a solid win.” Rep. Connolly has been doing a great job in the U.S. House and richly deserved to be renominated. And that’s what happened, with Connolly racking up a 71-point victory margin over his primary challenger, who mostly seemed upset about the fact that Congress (overwhelmingly) passed an aid package for Israel (note: the package also included significant humanitarian assistance for Gazans who badly need help).  Anyway, here’s hoping that Rep. Connolly will continue to be an excellent representative of the 11th Congressional District for years to come.

6. Leslie Mehta: A VERY impressive showing (winning by 33 points) for this first-time candidate in the VA01 Democratic primary against former VA01 Democratic nominee Herb Jones. Unfortunately, VA01 is a pretty “red” district, with an entrenched incumbent (Republican Rob Wittman) who has a TON of money. Still, Mehta’s 66.3% vote share in the Democratic primary certainly puts her in the “winners” column for this writeup. (P.S.  Abigail Spanberger could also be on the “Winners” list for her endorsement of Mehta, which arguably helped propel Mehta to her huge win in the primary)

7. Gloria Tinsley Witt: Another impressive showing for another first-time Democratic candidate, this time in the VA05 Democratic primary. Witt ended up defeating two opponents – Gary Terry and Paul Riley – with 57.2% of the vote, and now will face likely VA05 GOP nominee John McGuire in the fall. Unfortunately, this is a very “red” district, but still, impressive performance in the primary by Witt, and hopefully she can make the case to VA05 voters that McGuire is an extremist who’s been completely ineffective in the Virginia General Assembly – and will be just as ineffective (or worse!) in Congress.

8. Missy Cotter Smasal: A 70%-30% win in the Democratic primary for Smasal is impressive, and hopefully will provide some momentum for the fall, with a tough-but-winnable race looming against incumbent Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA02), who is truly abysmal but also has a ton of money. The keys to Democrats picking up this seat in November will be: a) Joe Biden winning VA02, hopefully by 3+ points; b) Tim Kaine winning VA02 as well, hopefully by even more than Biden, and spending a ton of money communicating with voters; c) Smasal raising a lot of money as well, running a strong campaign, making the case against Kiggans, etc.  Fingers crossed on this one, especially given what a massive downgrade it was from Elaine Luria to Kiggans.

9. Alyia Gaskins: The next mayor of Alexandria, winning the Democratic primary in this overwhelmingly “blue” city by a wide margin (59.4%-29.9%) over Amy Jackson. Impressive – good luck as Mayor of Alexandria! (P.S. Also worth noting here is that current Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson endorsed Gaskins, as did City Council members John Taylor Chapman, Kirk McPike, Sarah Bagley, former Mayor Bill Euille, etc.).

10. Alexandria City Council top 6: Winners here were (in descending order of finish) John Taylor Chapman, Sarah Bagley. R. Kirk McPike, Abdel Elnoubi, Canek Aguirre, Jacinta Greene. Congrats to all six on their nominations and/or renominations!

11. JD Spain: On Friday evening, Spain was confirmed as the winner of the Democratic nomination for the lone Arlington County Board seat up for election this November. This was an impressive win by a progressive, pro-“Missing Middle” housing candidate over a well-funded, anti-“Missing Middle” opponent, Natalie Roy, as well as another impressive, progressive candidate, Tenley Peterson. So…great job by JD Spain and his supporters, and good luck on the Arlington County Board, helping to make Arlington a more inclusive, environmentally sustainable, affordable, equitable, etc. place for years to come. (P.S. Also worth noting here are some key endorsers for JD Spain – State Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Alfonso Lopez, Del. Adele McClure, County Board members Takis Karantonis and Matt de Ferranti, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, State Sen. Russet Perry, etc.)

12. Ranked Choice Voting: Worked very well in Arlington, where JD Spain (see above) led after the first around, then led by even more after votes were reallocated using Ranked Choice Voting methodology, with most of the second/third-place votes from the other “YIMBY”/pro-housing/progressive candidate (Tenley Peterson) going to pro-“Missing Middle”/progressive Spain. Which, of course, expresses the wishes of the Arlington Democratic electorate more accurately than if the primary had been decided in a “first-past-the-post” methodology. Anyway, it’s long past time to expand Ranked Choice Voting to ALL elections in Virginia with more than two candidates.

13. “Missing Middle”/Enhanced Housing Opportunities: In Alexandria, the winner of the Democratic primary for Mayor – Alyia Gaskins – looks like ” a victory for those wanting more density and housing in the city,” as Gaskins “voted for all eight of the Zoning for Housing proposals and has continued to vouch for more investment in affordable housing.” And in Arlington, pro-“Missing Middle” candidate JD Spain (see above) won the Democratic primary for the single open Arlington County Board seat, soundly defeating a candidate (Natalie Roy) who was opposed to “Missing Middle.”  Both victories are very good news if you care about affordability, environmental sustainability, diversity, etc.

14. Politicians whose endorsed candidates mostly won: Obviously, the top example of this in the June 2024 primaries was Jennifer Wexton (see above), whose endorsement of Suhas Subramanyam arguably made the difference in a close contest with Dan Helmer and other heavyweight Democratic candidates. Also worth noting is State Sen. Russet Perry, who endorsed Suhas Subramanyam (who won), JD Spain (who also won), Eugene Vindman (who also won); Scott Surovell, who endorsed Suhas Subramanyam (who won); etc. You could also throw Donald Trump into this category, as he endorsed John McGuire over Bob Good, although that race is super close, so it’s not like Trump’s endorsement resulted in a huge McGuire win (although certainly, Trump’s endorsement of Hung Cao for US Senate helped Cao crush his Republican opponents).

15. Sam Shirazi’s predictions: On June 16, Virginia political guru Sam Shirazi posted his predictions here on Blue Virginia, and…he nailed them, getting every prediction right. Nice job!

Mixed

1. The Washington Post’s endorsements: They endorsed Eugene Vindman, who won easily (of course, he was always going to win easily, regardless of the WaPo). On the other hand, they endorsed Dan Helmer, who lost. Bottom line: there’s no indication that the WaPo’s endorsements make much difference at this point, nore should they, given how discredited that paper’s reputation is getting these days, and also the fact that its editorial board’s judgments regarding Virginia politics have been crap for as long as I can remember – certainly back to 2006, when they endorsed Harris Miller over Jim Webb, and then all the years they endorsed Republicans like Frank Wolf, Barbara Comstock, Tom Davis, etc.

2. Atif Qarni: “Solid showing and disciplined campaign. Could have a future in the General Assembly?” Qarni was outspent by a wide margin, yet managed to finish third (with 10.6%) in the VA10 Democratic primary, ahead of former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (9.3%) and State Senator Jennifer Boysko (9.1%).  Not a victory for sure, but still, not too shabby at all against a field full of heavyweight candidates!

3. Del. Dan Helmer: “Had millions in crypto money and did well in absentee voting, but ultimately couldn’t close out the election.”  Bottom line for Helmer: it looked like he might pull off a win for the VA10 Democratic nomination, given the huge amounts of money spent on his behalf (by VoteVets, the crypto industry, etc.), along with the WaPo endorsement (not that anyone should care what the WaPo thinks about anything, by the way), and strong campaign. Unfortunately for Helmer, he ran into some of the same problems that he encountered in his 2018 run for the VA10 Democratic nomination: a) he’s not from Loudoun County, which is the heart of the district; b) in both cases, there was an elected official from Loudoun County – Jennifer Wexton in 2018, Suhas Subramanyam (endorsed by Jennifer Wexton) this time around – in the race. As if all that wasn’t enough, Helmer also ran into last-minute accusations (which he STRONGLY denied) of sexual harassment. Put all that together, and Helmer ended up losing a possibly winnable race, albeit only by 4 points. The good news for Helmer is that he maintains his House of Delegates seat, as well as his close ties to House Democratic leadership…

4. Del. David Reid: The bad news for Reid is that he finished in sixth place in the VA10 Democratic primary, receiving just 3.2% of the vote. The good news for Reid is that he’s well liked in his House of Delegates district and is probably in no danger of drawing a serious primary challenge or of losing his seat.

5. Del. Michelle Maldonado: Similar to Reid, Del. Maldonado received just 3.2% of the vote in the VA10 Democratic primary, but is presumably in no serious danger of drawing a major primary challenge or of losing her House of Delegates seat.

6. State Sen. Jennifer Boysko: When she started her run for the VA10 Democratic nomination, Boysko was considered a top-tier candidate, with rumors flying around that she might get the endorsement of Rep. Jennifer Wexton. In the end, though, Wexton endorsed Suhas Subramanyam, and Boysko finished fifth, with just 9.1% of the vote. Not great. On the bright side, Boysko’s probably secure in her State Senate seat, which isn’t up until 2027, so this wasn’t a disaster politically for her, but it wasn’t great either.

7. Del. Briana Sewell: “Was described as an up and comer in General Assembly, she ran fourth in her home County, Prince William.”  Sewell ended up finishing third in the VA07 Democratic primary, with 13.4% of the vote, behind Eugene Vindman (49.4%) and former Del. Elizabeth Guzman (15.0%), but ahead of Supervisor Andrea Bailey (12.5%) and Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin (5.8%) – those latter two also in the “Mixed” category, as they keep their seats on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Anyway, Sewell should be safe in her House of Delegates seat, so this wasn’t a disaster or anything, but as with the others who ran and lost, it’s not the outcome she wanted.

8. “NIMBY” forces in Arlington and Alexandria: Discussed above, in the “Winners” section, but it’s worth adding that several leading “NIMBY” candidates (e.g., Natalie Roy in Arlington) lost in Arlington and Alexandria. And, as noted above, pro-housing-diversity candidates JD Spain and Alyia Gaskins (endorsed by pro-smart-growth GreaterGreater Washington) WON, which is great news.  However, it’s also worth noting that several of  GreaterGreater Washington’s endorsed candidates for Alexandria City Council (Jimmy Lewis, Jesse O’Connell, Kevin Harris) LOST.  So it’s somewhat of a mixed bag, but overall, could have been a LOT worse.

9. Sen. Tim Kaine: On the one hand, Kaine will be facing a Republican candidate (Hung Cao) who is way out of the mainstream, with TONS of crazy, bizarre, extreme comments that can be used against him in the fall. On the other hand, Cao won his primary overwhelmingly, and is now in lockstep with Trump, so he’ll presumably have an enthusiastic Republican base voting for him, and presumably will do about as well as Trump does in Virginia…which hopefully will be a loss by 10 points (or at least high single digits).  Let’s just make sure we do everything we can to ensure that Sen. Kaine is reelected, preferably by a huge margin.

Losers

1. Rep. Bob Good (R-VA05): A far-right extremist who’s been nothing but a destructive, divisive, noxious force in the U.S. House, Good made the fatal mistake in the Trumpified/cult-like GOP of endorsing someone OTHER than Trump for president (Ron DeSantis). In response, Trump and his people wage war on Good, vowing to destroy him, supporting Good’s super-far-right/insurrectionists/Trump cultist opponent, John McGuire. And, in the end, it looks like Good will be ousted, albeit not by a huge margin. Anyway, let’s just hope this is the end of a political career that has been a disgrace to the 5th Congressional district, to Virginia, to Congress and to America.

2. Former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn: “A distant result running in a different county. Where does the former Speaker go from here?” This one’s REALLY painful, as Eileen Filler-Corn has been a champion and a hero in Virginia for years, playing a significant role in Democrats clawing back from just 34 seats in the House of Delegates to a 55-45 majority (!), then being elected the first Jewish and first female Speaker in Virginia history, then leading/presiding over passage of literally HUNDREDS of progressive, environmental, pro-clean energy, etc. bills – arguably the most significant General Assembly session in a POSITIVE way in Virginia history. So, yes, Filler-Corn was leader when Democrats (barely) lost the House of Delegates majority in 2021, but that was pretty much 100% due to the fact that Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race (the fact is, there’s minimal ticket splitting anymore, so the delegate races closely track the governor’s results in each district). So why is Filler-Corn in this category, then? Because, unfortunately, her political future is now murky, following the loss of her Speakership, Democratic leader position, House of Delegates seat (she chose not to run for reelection after being redistricted in with another delegate, Kathy Tran), and now the VA10 Democratic nomination. Let’s hope she figures out a path forward, because Virginia would *greatly* benefit from having Filler-Corn’s continued active participation, hopefully for years to come.

3. Former Del. Elizabeth Guzman: This is a tough one as well, as Guzman is a progressive fighter/champion with an inspiring life story, considered a rising star not long ago (e.g., delivering the Spanish-language rebuttal to Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018). Since 2021, though, it’s been somewhat of a rollercoaster for Guzman, as she ran for the 2021 Democratic Lt. Governor nomination before dropping out to (successfully) focus on fighting off a challenge to her House of Delegates seat; then barely (just 50 votes out of >12k cast) lost her primary of State Sen. Jeremy McPike in June 2023; and now finished 44 points behind newcomer Eugene Vindman in the VA07 Democratic primary. On the other hand, while Guzman was massively oustpent by Vindman, she still managed to finish in second place (with 15% of the vote), ahead of Del. Briana Sewell (13.4%) and Prince William County Supervisor Andrea Bailey (12.5%). The question now is whether Guzman has a path forward politically speaking. Let’s hope so, as she is very talented with a great deal to offer…

4. Herb Jones: After winning the 2019 Democratic nomination for State Senate (then going on to lose the general election to Tommy Norment by a 62%-38% margin) and the  2022 VA01 Democratic nomination (going on to lose to Rep. Rob Wittman in November by a 57%-42% margin), Jones – an impressive guy, including former U.S. Army (retiring aftger 30 years of service with the rank of full Colonel and recipient of a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq) and former Treasurer of New Kent County (for 12 years), plus a small business owner lost the Democratic nomination for VA01 by 33 points this time to newcomer Leslie Mehta (see above). So we’ll see what Jones decides to do next, but in this “red” area, it’s hard to see many paths forward politically. Let’s hope Jones stays active and involved, though, as he has a lot to offer!

5. Aliscia Andrews: The 2020 VA10 GOP nominee (she lost to Jennifer Wexton by 13 points in November 2020) got absolutely CRUSHED this time in the Republican primary, losing to Mike Clancy by 42 points (64%-22%). It’s hard to see much path forward politically for Andrews after that one, and given lunacy like this, that’s a VERY good thing!

6. Krystle Kaul: Listening to her at forums, Kaul actually seems very smart, knowledgeable, level-headed, impressive, etc. Unfortunately, though, as a first-time political candidate, Kaul spent a lot of money (much of it her own), yet only got 2.2% of the vote (975 votes), finishing 9th, just behind Adrian Pokharel (988 votes) and just ahead of Travis Nembhard (716 votes) – who also belongs on the “Losers” list, actually.

7. Travis Nembhard: Ran an impressive campaign in 2023 for House of Delegates in a tough district, losing by just 4 points, 52%-48%. This time around, though, Nembhard didn’t do very well at all, finishing 10th in the VA10 Democratic primary, with just 1.6% of the vote, behind Krystle Kaul and Adrian Pokharel. Not great.

8. Any connection between Republican candidates’ rhetoric and facts, the truth, reality, science, moderation, etc.: It’s really wild to see the level to which the Republican Party – formerly the home of sane, moderate, reasonable people, from Dwight Eisenhower to Gerald Ford to George HW Bush to John Warner and many more – to the home for extremists, nutjobs, cranks, conspiracy theorists, etc. Today, the formerly great GOP is the home of people it once purged – nativists, isolationists, authoritarians, religious fundamentalists – and no longer the home for serious, constructive, reality-based policy ideas. So much for truth, reality, science, facts, loyalty to the constitution and rule of law, etc. Instead, Republicans just nominated the likes of John McGuire (as far right as they come, literally in the pro-Trump mob outside the US Capitol on 1/6/21, a 100% Trump sycophant, etc.) in VA05; Hung Cao (compared abortion access to the horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust, mocked climate science, praised the violent insurrection attempt on 1/6/21 and defended the insurrectionists, opposes protections for LGBTQ people; total NRA/gun fanatic, you name it) for U.S. Senate; Derrick Anderson (who bizarrely/falsely claims that national hero Eugene Vindman is all about “revenge” against Donald Trump; who claimed the unanimous jury verdict against Donald Trump was a “sad day in American history” and added, “I stand with President Trump and the defense of his innocence”; who is supported by extremists like Elise Stefanik, Tom Cotton, Derrick Van Orden, Tom Emmer, Mike Johnson, Ronny Jackson, Steve Scalise, former NRA President Bob Corbin, etc.) in VA07; etc. Just a bizarre, wacked-out party, even if the “mainstream media” prefers to normalize and “both sides” these people.

9. The “mainstream media”: Speaking of the “mainstream media,” this was yet another election cycle filled with weak, thin (or nonexistent), shallow, false equivalence, “both sides-ist,” “concern trolling”, whitewashing, and/or nonexistent coverage of Virginia politics by the WaPo et al. And that doesn’t even count the cesspool of social media and/or right-wing-propaganda media, like Sinclair (e.g., WJLA7 in northern Virginia), Fox “News,” far-right/MAGA talk radio, etc. Also, sadly, local papers continue to decline, with many Virginia news outlets mere shells of their former selves (although there’s also been a rise in online publications such as Virginia Mercury and The Cardinal, which have mostly been a positive force, but not a replacement for high-quality daily local papers). All in all, the political media in this country is a mess, and the consequences are VERY damaging to our democracy (given that an INFORMED citizenry is essential to democracy’s healthy functioning, even its very existence).

10. Politicians whose endorsed candidates lost: Former Gov. Ralph Northam and former AG Mark Herring are both great guys who did superb jobs in government and have strong name ID and approval ratings among Democrats, yet their endorsements in this cycle didn’t seem to move the needle at all. Northam, for instance, endorsed Andrea Bailey for VA07 (Bailey ended up finishing fourth) and Eileen Filler-Corn in VA10 (she ended up finishing fourth as well, behind Northam’s former Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni), along with Missy Cotter Smasal in VA02 (Smasal won her primary overwhelmingly, as expected).  As for Mark Herring, he also endorsed Filler-Corn, but his endorsement was clearly swamped by his successor in the State Senate, Jennifer Wexton. Oh well…they’re still both great guys who did tremendous things for Virginia – even if their endorsements don’t come with a lot of political “juice” anymore. Also note that in Arlington, Board member Libby Garvey – whose retirement opened up her seat – endorsed Tenley Peterson to succeed her, but Peterson ended up finishing a fairly distant third, behind JD Spain and Natalie Roy. Another one for this list is Del. Nick Freitas (R), who endorsed Cameron Hamilton in VA07…won by Derrick Anderson by 8 points. Also endorsing Cameron Hamilton was Bob Good, who is most definitely NOT in “good” shape in his primary with John McGuire. Oh, and our old pal Amanda Chase was a huge supporter of Chuck Smith, who finished fourth (with 8.8% of the vote) for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. There are many other examples, including a bunch of endorsers of Briana Sewell in VA07, but you get the idea. Anyway, none of this probably matters that much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s got to hurt a bit if you’re a politician whose political “mojo” in terms of helping their endorsed candidate(s) win perhaps isn’t what it used to be…

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