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Issue 2: Virginia Primaries & Pennsylvania Referendums
Virginia's Primaries are done - plus a look at Pennsylvania referendum
Virginia Primary Results
Democrats went to the polls last night to select their slate of candidates for November. The races for Governor, Lt Governor, and Attorney General are all Lean-Likely Democratic to some degree. The state is growing more Democratic by the year, but Democrats will need to be sure to galvanize their base and show up in November.
On the Governor front, former Gov Terry McAuliffe easily bested his opponents; taking over 60% of the vote. McAuliffe always led in the polls leading up to the primary, but often under 50% and with a theoretical possibility that one of his opponents could consolidate support. McAuliffe faced four challengers
Jennifer Carroll-Foy, a former state house member. She represented probably the strongest threat to McAuliffe and came at him decidedly from his left.
Jennifer McClellan, a state senator out of Richmond. More in the left-of-center camp, she would likely have been much stronger had McAuliffe not made the jump
Justin Fairfax, the current Lt Governor of Virginia. Fairfax never got off the ground with his campaign as he faces accusations of sexual assault.
Lee Carter, a state representative who hails from the hard-left, DSA side of the party. Carter’s bombastic style kneecapped his campaign from day one and he never gained traction.
The race did get ugly at times as McAuliffe’s challengers tried to take him down - but he managed to avoid much of the fray. Foy and McClellan were seen as the only real shots to stop McAuliffe, which led to fighting between the two camps. There was also a concern about a final Gov, LG, AG slate that would be entirely made up of white men and not reflect the broad coalition of Virginia Democrats. This came as Foy and McClellan both were both trying to become the first African-American female Governor of the state. Democrats did worry McAuliffe would win with a weak 30-40%, which polling indicated could happen.
In the end, however, McAuliffe had a massive consolidation of the Democratic vote. Undecideds broke heavily too him; with many voters likely seeing a safe and familiar pick.
The LT Governor primary was a much more wide-open affair. Polling gave no one a clear lead and it was seen as possible for any candidate to win. State Rep Hala Ayala, of Prince William County has managed to win the election; thanks heavily to strong performances in the east. Her closest challenger was fellow liberal state Rep Sam Rasoul, of Roanoke; who took most of the west end of the state. Ayala is a liberal house member and if she wins in November, will be the first female Lt Governor in Virginia history and the first woman of color in any statewide Virginia office. Her victory brings much needed diversity to the ticket and she could be well positioned to make a play for Governor in four or eight years.
In the primary for Attorney General, Incumbent Mark Herring opted to run for a third term. Herring initially wanted to run for Governor, but after he admitted to wearing black-face in college, he abandoned the effort. His path to remain AG isn’t a walk in the park through, as he faced an strong primary from State Rep Jay Jones, who is African-American. Jones actually got a good deal of institutional backing, including the backing of outgoing Governor Ralph Northam. Herring was clearly weakened by his scandal and Jones proved to be a real strong candidate. Herring did manage to pull off a 57% win, but that’s really weak for an incumbent. If Herring wins in November, he might be done after this term.
Voters also went to the polls for legislative primaries as well. It appears that right now a handful of incumbents on both sides are going down. Perhaps the most notable is Lee Carter, the same state rep who decided to run for Governor. Virginia actually allows folks to run for multiple offices at once. Well, Carter clearly didn’t pay close enough attention at home, and lost his re-nomination for his own seat. He did even worse in the Governor election. Its the same story as Lt Governor candidate Mark Levine, who also lost re-election to his house seat the same night he lost the statewide primary. Rep Jay Jones, who lost to Herring for AG, did win his state house primary - so he gets to return to the legislature.
A few weeks back, Pennsylvania voters went to the polls for their local primary elections. A handful of races garnered outside attention; namely the Philadelphia District Attorney primary and the Pittsburgh Mayor Primary. The big shocker of the night was the ousting of Pittsburgh Mayor, William Peduto.
While local races dominated the attention, a handful of referendums were taking place the same day. Two referendum’s: Amendments 1 and 2, where GOP-backed measures to restrict the emergency powers of Governor Wolf. Both measures wound up passing narrowly, both with maps that match close to the Presidential contest.
The measures passed partly due to turnout being stronger outside of Southeast Pennsylvania. In addition, the opposition ran behind Biden’s margins in the southeast suburbs and Philadelphia itself.
I dug deeper into this campaign and the results. You can read a detailed write-up here.
One other note. Voters also approved Amendment 3 that same day. The measure stated that discrimination based on race or ethnicity was not legal in Pennsylvania. It passed easily, but failed in THREE counties.
I delved into that campaign more in my article.