The stage is set for what will be one of the nation’s most watched political battles in November.
Virginia’s statewide elections are expected to serve as a barometer of the mood of the nation following President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 victory. Although none of the candidates in this week’s primaries will have a vote on the Capitol Hill debates, the goings-on in Washington were addressed by contested candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and House of Delegates seats in speeches all along the campaign trail.
Many of the races were tight, displaying significant intraparty divides.
In Loudoun, nearly twice as many Democrats (20,900) than Republicans (12,400) went to the polls on Tuesday, although the vast majority of voters stayed home. Turnout in Loudoun was 13.8 percent.
The divide among Republicans was on full display. The night ended with Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie apparently holding off Corey A. Stewart, with the prospect of a recount still in play. In Virginia, state-funded recounts can be requested if the vote difference is less than 1 percent. Unofficial totals put Gillespie’s margin of victory at 1.2 percent.
In Loudoun, Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, beat Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors with 44.8 percent of the vote to 42.23 percent. Frank W. Wagner, a state senator from Virginia Beach, trailed with 11.7 percent of the vote.
Voting was tight in the GOP’s lieutenant governor race, too. Jill H. Vogel, a state senator whose district reaches into southwest Loudoun, handily won in Loudoun, totaling 7,636 votes to fellow state Senator Bryce Reeves’ 2,731 votes. But statewide, Vogel won by a margin of less than 2 percent.
Democrats in Loudoun and across the state backed Ralph S. Northam, the current lieutenant governor, over former Congressman Tom S. Perriello.
Perriello, who entered the race in January, campaigned heavily in Loudoun, even making a last-minute appearance in Sterling on Monday. That wasn’t quite enough, as Northam won the county by 659 votes. Statewide, Northam stretched out a wider lead, garnering 56 percent of the vote to Perriello’s 44 percent.
Susan S. Platt, a political consultant making her first run for public office, won in Loudoun, but lost her bid for the lieutenant governor nomination to attorney Justin E. Fairfax. Statewide, Fairfax got 49.1 percent of the vote to Platt’s 39.2 percent.
Walbridge Wins in 33rd
The Democrats also had two contested races to run for House of Delegates seats come November.
In the 33rd House District, two political newcomers battled for the chance to challenge incumbent Republican Dave LaRock. Round Hill sheep farmer Tia Walbridge came out on top. She defeated Mavis Taintor, of Waterford, with 52 percent of the district vote. In Loudoun, the race was tighter, with Walbridge winning by only 102 votes.
Walbridge has said she would support investment in small businesses and the rural economy; guaranteeing affordable health care, in part by accepting a federal expansion of Medicaid; investing in renewable energy, and expanding programs like full-day-kindergarten and elementary school language courses in the public schools. LaRock, a homebuilder who unseated longtime Republican delegate Joe. T. May in a 2013 party primary, has championed anti-tax and school choice measures and opposed the Medicaid expansion. In the 2015 race against Democrat Chuck Hedges, LaRock won every precinct in the district.
“This campaign will now continue to the general election and so will our fight on behalf of the values of the 33rd District. Against intolerance and partisanship, against opposition and difficulty, those values will always be at the forefront in this campaign,” Walbridge said after the election. “Whether it’s ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Virginians, creating an economy that works for everyone, strengthening our public schools, or protecting the rural heritage of our district, we have heard your voices and we will fight for you every step of the way.”
Delaney Wins in 67th
In the 67th House District, which includes a part of eastern Loudoun, Democrat Karrie K. Delaney handily won the three-way race to challenge incumbent Republican Jim LeMunyon. She won with 62 percent of the district vote over John W. Carey and Hannah K. Risheq.
Delaney was a registered Republican in Florida before moving to Virginia. She says she wants to work with Republicans, Independents and Democrats. According to her campaign manager, she supports “commonsense gun-control laws” and is a supporter of abortion rights.