Home 2024 Elections Sam Shirazi: Virginia Congressional Primary Preview

Sam Shirazi: Virginia Congressional Primary Preview

The primaries are on Tuesday, 6/18

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by Sam Shirazi

This November, Virginia will be getting at least two new members of Congress, with Democratic retirements in VA-7 (Abigail Spanberger, who’s running for governor) and in VA-10 (Jennifer Wexton, due to serious health reasons). It’s also possible incumbent Republicans could lose in VA-5 (during the primary) and VA-2 (during the general election).

The choices for who might ultimately fill these seats in November will first be decided during the June 18 primary. There will also be a statewide GOP primary to pick a nominee to take on Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate.

VA-10: The Most Unpredictable Race 

The crowded Democratic primary in VA-10 is the most unpredictable race of next Tuesday night. Rep. Jennifer Wexton unfortunately had to retire due to health reasons, which has led to 12 Democrats seeking the seat.

Rep. Wexton ultimately gave her endorsement to State Senator Suhas Subramanyam. Subramanyam represents the most voters currently in the district and comes from the growing Indian-American community. He is also the leading candidate who lives in Loudoun County, which makes up the majority of the district – so that could give him a leg up heading into June 18.

There are plenty of outside groups getting involved in the VA10 Democratic primary, making the race more unpredictable. The chief beneficiary has been Del. Dan Helmer, who has also won the Washington Post endorsement. Helmer saw late spending by different PACs on his behalf, such as VoteVets and one linked to the Crypto industry. Helmer also gave himself a late $250,000 donation and leads all the candidates in fundraising giving him a clear financial advantage. However, in the final days of the campaign, Helmer has faced allegations of sexual harassment, leading to several other candidates calling for him to drop out. At this point, it remains unclear what impact this late story will have on the race or his chances.

While Subramanyam and Helmer seem like the top contenders, several of the other candidates are still in the mix. Former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn has also seen outside spending on her behalf from the Democratic Majority for Israel, and has the endorsement of former Governor Ralph Northam. But she has also seen the most negative advertisements against her, with progressive PACs attacking her record as former Speaker of the House of Delegates. She has pushed back against these attacks, and might also get a boost from women – who will make up the majority of primary voters – backing her.

State Senator Jennifer Boysko’s previous State Senate district included a large portion of Loudoun County, so she is also well known in VA-10. However, Boysko’s new State Senate district after redistricting is outside VA-10, and she suffered a setback by not getting Wexton’s endorsement. Still in such a fractured field, any candidate with a base of support can’t be counted out.

Other elected official running in VA-10 include Del. David Reid, and Del. Michelle Maldonado. Former Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni and 2023 House of Delegates candidate Travis Nembhard are also running. Rounding out the list of candidates are self-funder Krystal Kaul, Mark Leighton, Marion Devoe, and Adrian Pokharel.

Republicans also have a number of people running in their primary, including 2020 VA10 GOP nominee Aliscia Andrews, Mike Clancy, Alex Isaac, and Manga Anantatmula. It’s not obvious if any of them is clearly ahead of the pack, given the less attention the GOP primary has gotten as compared to the Democratic primary. Clancy might have a slight edge, as he is positioning himself as more of the “outsider” candidate, who often do well in GOP primaries.

Ultimately, this seat is very likely to stay in Democratic hands in a Presidential year. That means the winner of the Democratic primary is likely to be the next member of Congress for VA-10. The nature of the primary is such that there isn’t much certainty about who will win on either side, hence the “tilt” ratings for the primary.

Dem Primary rating: Tilt Subramanyam

GOP Primary rating: Tilt Clancy

General Rating: Safe Dem

 

VA-7: A National Figure as the Favorite 

In the VA-7 Democratic primary, there is more of a frontrunner (compared to VA10), with Eugene Vindman holding a big fundraising advantage and also endorsed by the Washington Post. Vindman rose to fame during the first impeachment of Trump, and has subsequently kept a national profile being critical of the former president. Vindman’s other big advantage in the Democratic primary is facing a divided field, with no clear alternative to take him on.

In addition to Vindman, there are six other Democratic candidates running in VA07, including Del. Brianna Sewell, former Del. Elizabeth Guzman, Prince William County Supervisor Andrea Bailey, Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin, Carl Bedell, and Clifford Heinzer.  It is likely that the vote will be split among the rest of the field, and in this scenario, it’s hard not to see Vindman as the favorite.

Republicans also have a primary here, with the Republican establishment backing Derrick Anderson, who also sought the nomination in 2022. But Cameron Hamilton is challenging Anderson, with more of an outsider appeal as he seeks the upset. Other Republicans running include Jon Myers, John Prabhudoss, Terris Todd, and Maria Martin.

VA-7 is one of two battleground districts in Virginia this year, with this one being more Democratic leaning. In a presidential year, Vindman should start off with an advantage in the general if he’s the Democratic nominee.

Dem Primary Rating: Likely Vindman

GOP Primary Rating: Lean Anderson

General Rating: Lean Dem

 

VA-5: Incumbent as an Underdog 

Incumbent Rep. Bob Good (R) is the underdog now that Trump endorsed his primary opponent State Senator John McGuire. Good was already in trouble before the endorsement, but Trump’s subsequent bashing of the incumbent only makes things worse for him. Still an incumbent is always hard to knock off in a primary, so Good can’t be fully counted out.

Democrats also have a primary here with Garry Terry, Gloria Tinsley Witt, and Paul Riley running. However, this race has gotten much less attention than the GOP primary and it’s not clear if any of them have an advantage.

While VA-5 is not the reddest district in Virginia, it certainly leans heavily towards Republicans and has been trending in the GOP direction over time. That means that if McGuire is able to knock off Good, he’s likely to be the next Congressman from VA-5.

Dem Primary Rating: Tilt Wilt

GOP Primary Rating: Lean McGuire

General Rating: Safe GOP

 

VA-2: Sleepy Primary But Big General

There is not much drama in VA-2, as incumbent Rep. Jen Kiggans does not have any other Republican running against her. And in the Democratic primary, Missy Cotter Smasal is the heavy favorite, as the entire Virginia Democratic Congressional delegation has endorsed her over her Democratic opponent, Jake Denton.

VA-2 is one of top two battleground districts in Virginia this year, with this one being the more GOP-friendly one. After redistricting, the district became more Republican, so it will be tough to knock off the incumbent. But if Democrats improve from their current standing in the polls, it’s certainly possible in this district, which has traditionally flipped between the parties.

 

Dem Primary Rating: Safe Cotter Smasal

General Rating: Lean GOP

 

VA-1: An Important Endorsement 

In the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Rob Wittman (R), Leslie Mehta scored an important endorsement from Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who used to represent the Richmond suburbs before redistricting. This should boost Mehta, because the majority of primary voters will come from this part of the district.

But 2022 Democratic nominee Herb Jones has already been on the ballot in this district and could have goodwill from voters after having stepped up to run last time. Ultimately, whoever wins the nomination will face a tough race in this district where Republicans are still favored, despite recent trends toward Democrats.

Dem Primary Rating: Lean Mehta

General Rating: Safe Republican

 

VA-11: A Safe Incumbent 

Rep. Gerry Connolly is facing a primary challenge from Ahsan Nasar, who is challenging Connolly primarily on the issue of Connolly’s support for Israel. Nasar’s pro-Palestinian position should win him support from some progressives and the growing Muslim-American community in the district

Ultimately, though, Connolly’s long history and popularity with most rank-and-file Democrats should carry the day. Connolly is almost certainly going to win the primary and then the general election.

Dem Primary Rating: Safe Connolly

General Rating: Safe Dem

 

VA-Senate: A Flawed Republican Frontrunner 

In the Virginia GOP Senate primary, the late endorsement of Donald Trump for Hung Cao gave Cao’s campaign a much-needed boost. However, Cao has had a number of gaffes during the campaign generating negative headlines. These gaffes provided an opening for some of his primary opponents to attempt an upset of the frontrunner. But with the Trump endorsement, Cao heads into the primary as the favorite. The other Republicans running are Scott Parkinson, Eddie Garcia, Jonathan Emord, and Chuck Smith, all of whom will try to overcome the Trump endorsement.

Ultimately, Tim Kaine does not seem to be in much trouble, as Republicans are reluctant to invest in Virginia, given many other more tempting targets on the map. If Cao ends up the Republican nominee, it is unlikely Kaine will have much trouble winning a third term.

GOP Primary Rating: Lean Cao

General Rating: Safe Dem

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