Virginia’s Primary Elections Just Days Away

FILE - Voters cast their ballots under a giant mural at Robious Elementary School in Midlothian, Va., on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. Voting in the 2022 midterm election ends when polls close on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Millions of Americans have already cast ballots either early in person or by mail, with millions more set to vote in person at their polling places. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Carolyn Fiddler

June 15, 2023

On June 20, Virginia voters in many parts of the commonwealth will have the opportunity to select their party’s nominee in races for state House, state Senate, commonwealth’s attorney, town councils, and more. Here’s what you should know about the hottest contests.

In just a few days, voters in many parts of Virginia will cast their ballots in the state’s primary elections.

Here are the most-watched contests and why they matter.

Senate District 13: Former Del. Lashrecse Aird is challenging Sen. Joe Morrisseey for the Democratic nomination in this solidly blue district.

Unlike other Democratic primary contests, this one is mostly centered around reproductive rights.

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Morrissey is the last anti-abortion Democrat serving in Virginia’s legislature, and if the 40-seat state Senate remains closely divided after this fall’s elections, he could be the pivotal vote in determining whether Virginians will maintain access to abortion care.

Aird capitalized on Morrissey’s past statements declaring himself “pro-life” in her “Roe Not Joe” effort, a campaign push also supported by REPRO Rising Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, and EMILY’s List.

Morrissey was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 2019 after scandal-laden tenures in both the House of Delegates and as a commonwealth’s attorney.

Senate District 18: Two sitting state senators are facing off in the primary for this new Hampton Roads-area seat, which was redrawn last year to (unintentionally) include both lawmakers. The district is sufficiently blue that the candidate that wins the primary is heavily favored to win the general election in November.

Democrats Louise Lucas and Lionell Spruill are running in the only Senate primary contest with two incumbents. The senators have similar stances on most issues, though Lucas has sought to create political space between them by highlighting Spruill’s votes against “red flag” bills that allow judges to temporarily take guns away from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Senate District 12: Three Republican candidates are battling it out in the primary for this solidly GOP Chesterfield-area seat.

Incumbent Sen. Amanda Chase, who has described herself as “Trump in heels,” was ejected from the Republican Senate Caucus and censured by her colleagues for a “pattern of unacceptable conduct” related to making repeated false and misleading statements and generally hostile extremist behavior. She remains a vocal supporter of Donald Trump.

Glen Sturtevant is former one-term state senator whose past votes supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and a “red flag” gun safety bill have become fodder for Chase to attack him from the right. Sturtevant has expressed regret for his vote on the “red flag” bill and now says he opposes such measures (a red flag law passed the legislature in 2020, when Democrats held majorities in both the state House and Senate). He’s been endorsed by several of Chase’s fellow Senate Republicans.

Tina Ramirez is a single mom, nonprofit leader, and failed congressional candidate who “can be as outspoken as Chase” in her support of Trump. Despite being the arguably lesser-known candidate in this contest, she has a fundraising edge and has deployed her resources via TV ads, which will raise her name recognition.

House District 57: Bob Shippee faces Susann Gibson in the Democratic primary for this slightly Republican-leaning seat just west of Richmond. Their stances on many policy issues overlap – they both support reproductive freedom, public education, and reducing gun violence – but they bring very different resumes to the race.

Shippee is a former banking director who became deeply involved in local political organizing after he retired from Capital One in 2015. He’s run for the Henrico County Board of Supervisors, and he recently served as vice chair of Henrico’s electoral board. He’s also testified for environmental protection bills in the General Assembly as a lobbyist for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club.

Gibson is a nurse practitioner who was spurred to get involved in politics after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.

“Realizing that Virginia is at a tipping point in terms of reproductive rights, I wanted to be able to do everything I can to protect those reproductive rights and reproductive freedom,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

House District 59: Incumbent Republican Del. Buddy Fowler is facing two challengers for the newly-drawn, GOP-favoring House seat west of Richmond.

Fowler has served in the House of Delegates for 10 years and can be fairly characterized as a more or less “traditional,” pre-Trump Republican. He’s been endorsed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in a contest with little of the combativeness of some other primaries.

Graven Craig has almost 26 years’ experience as a trial attorney, and a particular point of pride for him is that he’s successfully sued the state multiple times. Two of Craig’s major issues are improving government transparency and a very specific form of what he feels is “overreach” promulgated by administrative code. Craig says that it’s a misdemeanor for a child to sit in a certain place on a boat, and he believes that only the General Assembly should enact criminal laws, not “bureaucrats.”

Philip Strother, who significantly lags his two opponents in fundraising, is a lawyer, winery owner, farmer, and beekeeper. He says that he will “be a champion for preserving our rural way of life” and also opposes what he sees as administrative overreach by Virginia’s government.

House District 79: Three Democrats are contending for their party’s nomination for this deep blue Richond-area seat.

Rae Cousins is an attorney whose family has lived in Richmond for several generations. Her fundraising has swamped her rivals’ cash hauls – but money isn’t everything.

Ann-Frances Lambert is the daughter of late state Sen. Benny Lambert, who represented Richmond in the General Assembly for more than three decades. On top of name recognition, Lambert is the only candidate of the three with actual experience in elected office; she currently represents District 3 on the Richmond City Council.

Richard Walker unsuccessfully ran for a Democratic House nomination two years ago and is CEO of Bridging the Gap in Virginia, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk groups – including formerly incarcerated people, veterans, substance abusers, and those suffering from homelessness – “overcome barriers that hinder their effective transition.”

“I’ve walked in the shoes of the folks I’ll be representing,” said Walker.

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  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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