What Just Happened? – Virginia Primary Analysis

In the Tuesday primary election here in Virginia, yours truly predicted 23/28 primaries correctly between the House of Delegates primaries for both parties and statewide Democratic primaries. Our blunders were HD-50, where Lee Carter narrowly lost his primary (Ben Tribbett was more accurate on this one than we were, rating it somewhere in Toss-Up territory), HD-51 with Tim Cox handily beating Jeff Dove, HD-86 with Ibraheem Samirah narrowly losing to challenger Irene Shin, HD-83 with Chris Stolle losing to Tim Anderson by a few votes, and Hala Ayala beating Sam Rasoul for the Lieutenant Governor nomination.

Overall, an acceptable result for our predictions; we fully anticipated getting a few races wrong and maintained that there was a moderate amount of room for an Ayala upset in the Lieutenant Governor race. The real egg-on-our-face was the GOP primary in District 51, where Jeff Dove, who we bet on due to his name recognition and money advantage, didn’t even net a quarter of the vote. Dove carpetbagged into this seat and we underestimated how big of an issue that would be in the primary.

Of note, the House of Delegates has shifted rightward in ideology: Carter and Samirah narrowly lost their primaries to challengers who ran on a more left-of-center platform, and Charles Poindexter lost to a primary from his right, as we predicted. Progressives had one lone victory on Tuesday and that was Nadarius Clark defeating incumbent Democrat Steve Heretick, which we also predicted.

When it comes to the general election, Democrats find themselves with a ticket with two liabilities: none of the nominees ran in the progressive lane and all reside in one region in the Commonwealth, Northern Virginia. It’s still a decent ticket overall, but we are expecting the most ticket-splitting for Republicans to be in the Lieutenant Governor’s race. As a result, we are moving Virginia Lieutenant Governor from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic. 

Another worrisome sign for Democrats is that turnout in Tuesday’s statewide primary registered at around 8%, down from 10% in 2017. This was not as low as some had speculated, and given that there was little competition in the top-of-the-ticket primary, this isn’t an augury of defeat for Democrats; it simply confirms the suspicion that there’s likely to be a drop in Democratic turnout this year with Trump out of office.

When it comes to the House of Delegates, the House Democratic Caucus had a mixed bag. While they weren’t able to protect several incumbents (Steve Heretick, Ibraheem Samirah, Lee Carter, and Mark Levine), they are now in a stronger position ahead of the general election, with the House of Delegates shifting from Toss-Up to Tilt Democratic. This is due to the three rating changes below:

First, HD-31. Delegate Elizabeth Guzman won her primary and will be the heavy favorite going into the general election thanks to her incumbency advantage and the lack of a strong campaign from her Republican opponent. We are moving this seat from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic.

Second, HD-50. Delegate Lee Carter was a reliable underperformer compared to Democrats on the top of the ticket in a seat where Biden won by over 20 points. Now that Democrats have a more acceptable candidate against a Republican with a nearly nonexistent campaign, Democrats are extremely favored in this seat. We are moving this from Likely Democratic to Very Likely Democratic.

Finally, HD-83. Former Delegate Chris Stolle lost in the Republican primary for his seat to a more rightward opponent who lacks the fundraising prowess and name recognition that Stolle had. This is a seat that voted for Biden by double digits last year, and despite its previously close margin when Nancy Guy defeated Stolle in 2019, we are moving this seat from Tilt Republican to Tilt Democratic.

Overall, Democrats ended Tuesday night on a solid note. They are moderate favorites in the races for Attorney General and Governor with a Lean Democratic rating, and slight favorites in the House of Delegates and Lieutenant Governor’s race with a Tilt Democratic rating.