The following comes by way of Dentons 50 partner Capital Results in Virginia.
Republicans currently hold the slimmest of majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates (51-49) and Senate (21-19). With several veteran legislators announcing they would not seek re-election, both parties have identified this election year as an opportunity to flip seats or install new standard-bearers in key districts.
The biggest upset of the night occurred in the Democratic primary for Richmond’s Senate District 16, where former Del. Joe Morrissey trounced party favorite and incumbent Rosalyn Dance by 13 percentage points. Morrissey, an antagonistic and colorful attorney, has a checkered history; he once was disbarred for fighting another attorney at a courthouse, and in 2015, he served in the House while on work-release from jail for charges stemming from a sex scandal with a teenager whom he eventually married. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, also a former governor, all campaigned for Dance.
The Senate’s Democratic Majority Leader, Dick Saslaw, barely survived a challenge from liberal activist Yasmine Taeb in the nominating contest for northern Virginia’s District 35. Saslaw, who has served in the Senate since 1980, raised nearly $2 million to Taeb’s $178,000. In the end, he earned about 500 more votes to secure the nomination. No Republicans have filed to challenge him in November.
On the Republican side, Sen. Emmett Hangar fended off an intense challenge from Tina Freitas, wife of Republican Del. Nick Freitas, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate last year. Tina Freitas campaigned heavily against Sen. Hanger’s years-long support of Medicaid expansion. Hanger, however, relied on his deep ties in the community and a pragmatic business sense to ride a nearly 15-percentage point margin to victory.
Republican Del. Bob Thomas didn’t fare as well for his support of Medicaid expansion. The Fredericksburg-area delegate was upended by Paul Milde, a former member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors and strident opponent of Medicaid expansion. Milde edged Thomas by about 160 votes and will face Democrat Joshua Cole in the general election. While traditionally a Republican-leaning district, Democrats have made significant gains here in recent years.
The Republican nominating contest between Del. Chris Peace and challenger Scott Wyatt remains undecided. Peace also voted for Medicaid expansion and has enjoyed House caucus support. But Senate Republican leaders have lined up behind Wyatt, highlighting divisions between the party’s legislative leaders. Wyatt also carried Tea Party support and claimed victory at a May 4 convention for the nomination, while Peace claimed a firehouse primary victory on June 1. The outcome may not be resolved for weeks.
All 140 seats in the bicameral legislature are up for a vote in the general election on Nov. 5, 2019.