AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Virginia's state primaries


WASHINGTON (AP) — Incumbents’ dominance in the 2024 congressional primaries will be put to the test in Virginia on Tuesday.

While Virginia Democrats head to the polls to fill two open seats in the U.S. House, Republican voters could replace House Freedom Caucus chair Bob Good, who faces a primary challenge in the 5th Congressional District. Ex-President Donald Trump endorsed his challenger, state Sen. John McGuire, highlighting the balancing act that the most ideologically strident members of Congress must walk to stay on Trump’s good side. Good endorsed one of Trump’s early challengers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in this year’s presidential primaries.

If Good loses, he would be the first House incumbent to go down to a primary challenge this year, with the exception of one race in which two incumbents faced off due to redistricting.

Good was also among eight Republicans who voted to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has allies in the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that says it’s “dedicated to working to enact commonsense legislation.” The super PAC affiliated with those House Republicans, Defending Main Street, aired ads backing McGuire, while a super PAC affiliated with the Freedom Caucus aired ads supporting Good.

Good previously won the nomination to his seat through a convention, where only state delegates vote for the nominee. This will be Good’s first time running for this seat in a traditional primary, with an electorate that spans beyond the most active participants of the party.

Even though Trump endorsed his opponent, Good is campaigning on his loyalty to Trump, even showing up to his trial in New York. Trump comfortably carried the 5th District in 2020 and 2016.

In the 7th Congressional District, Democrats will choose their nominee to replace Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who’s running for governor in 2025. Eugene Vindman, a former ethics lawyer at the National Security Council, had raised roughly 15 times his nearest rival as of May 29. Vindman is popular among Democratic activists due to his involvement in reporting a 2019 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that led to Trump’s first impeachment.

The Republican primary has pitted House Freedom Caucus members, who support Navy veteran Cameron Hamilton, against members of House leadership, who are backing Army veteran Derrick Anderson.

In the 10th District, Democrats are choosing a successor to Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who’s not running for reelection after her diagnosis with a brain disease. A dozen Democrats are running to replace her.

In the 2nd District, two Democrats are on the ballot to take on Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans in a district that Joe Biden narrowly carried in the 2020 presidential contest against Trump. Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal is the leading fundraiser in the primary, with endorsements from former Govs. Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe, along with Spanberger and Wexton. She faces constitutional law attorney Jake Denton.

In the U.S. Senate, Trump endorsed Navy veteran Hung Cao for the Republican nomination. Cao faces Scott Parkinson, who has endorsements from Good and multiple U.S. senators and representatives. Constitutional lawyer and conservative columnist Jonathan Emord had spent nearly $900,000 on the primary as of the latest filing deadline, just ahead of Parkinson, who has spent $600,000, but significantly behind Cao, who had spent nearly $2.4 million. Army veteran Eddie Garcia and Marine veteran Chuck Smith are on the ballot also.

Here’s what to expect Tuesday:

PRIMARY DAY

The primary will be held Tuesday. Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide coverage for 10 contested races: six Democratic primaries for the U.S. House, three Republican primaries for the House, and a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Virginia has an open primary system, which means any registered voter may choose to participate in one party’s primary.

DECISION NOTES

In the 5th Congressional district, Good’s base of support is in the central and western parts of the district around Lynchburg and Campbell County, where he previously served on the board of supervisors. In the state Senate, McGuire represents counties in the northeastern portion of the district, including Powhatan and Goochland counties and parts of Hanover County. A potentially deciding factor in the contest is which candidate carries the more moderate and highly educated areas around Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle County.

In the 7th District, the Democratic field includes four current and former elected officials from Prince William County, which makes up more than a third of the district and could be a decisive factor in the race: former state Del. Elizabeth Guzman, state Del. Briana Sewell, and County Board of Supervisors members Andrea Bailey and Margaret Franklin. Two other Democratic candidates, military veterans Carl Bedell and Cliff Heinzer, have not held office.

In the Republican primary, Anderson led Republicans in fundraising as of the latest filing deadline, bringing in $1.1 million. Hamilton raised $722,000.

Loudoun County makes up a majority of the 10th Congressional District, which also includes parts of Prince William County and a sliver of Fairfax County. State Del. Dan Helmer is the top fundraiser in the race. Helmer and state Sen. Jennifer Boysko represent part of Fairfax County, as did former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn.

Wexton endorsed state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, a former policy adviser to the Obama administration who represents parts of Loudoun County. Del. David Reid also represents Loudoun. Loudoun County resident Krystle Kaul is a political newcomer but has loaned her campaign more than $500,000.

Former Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni lives in Manassas, which falls within the district, and state Del. Michelle Maldonado represents Manassas, Manassas Park and part of Prince William County.

There are a handful more candidates on the ballot who could further splinter the vote, lowering the threshold a candidate needs to win a plurality of the vote and making the race especially unpredictable.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there’s no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

In Virginia, a candidate may request a recount if the margin separating two candidates is less than 1 percentage point.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

As of June 1, there were 6,230,102 registered voters in Virginia. Voters in Virginia do not register with a political party.

In the 2022 Republican primary elections, turnout was 7% of registered voters in the 2nd and 7th congressional districts. In the 8th District Democratic primary, turnout was 10%.

In the 2024 presidential race, 44% of ballots in the Democratic primary and 16% of Republican ballots were cast before Election Day.

As of Wednesday, a total of 92,600 advance votes had been cast in the Democratic primary, including about 69% mail ballots and 31% absentee in-person ballots. In the Republican primary, 57,881 advance ballots had been cast, including 55% mail ballots and 45% absentee in person.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the 2022 7th District Republican primary election, the AP first reported results at 7:10 p.m. ET, or 10 minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 9:15 p.m. ET with more than 99% of total votes counted.

ARE WE THERE YET?

As of Tuesday, there will be 140 days until the November general election.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

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AP writer Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Va., contributed to this report.



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