Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw hung on Tuesday against a fierce primary challenge from Yasmine Taeb, who pummeled the legislative veteran over his ties to corporate power. A second woman on the ballot may have been a factor.
Del. Bob Thomas, R-Stafford, fell to a conservative primary challenger who was upset about Thomas joining Democrats to support Medicaid expansion. In the Shenandoah Valley, Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, fended off a primary challenge from conservative Tina Freitas.
Virginia voters went to the polls to select nominees in 35 legislative primary contests. All 140 legislative seats are up for election in November. Republicans hold slim majorities in the House and Senate.
In the 35th Senate District, Saslaw spent more than $800,000 on his campaign from the beginning of 2018 to May 30 of this year.
Taeb, a lawyer and the first Muslim woman elected to the Democratic National Committee, spent over $128,000 as of May 30.
According to unofficial results, Saslaw led Taeb by 509 votes with all precincts reporting. A third candidate, Karen Torrent — who joined the primary after Taeb and, like Taeb, raised concerns about the influence of Dominion Energy — appeared to receive enough votes — 852 — that had they gone to Taeb the outcome may have been different.
Taeb attacked Saslaw for not supporting collective bargaining rights; taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Dominion Energy, payday lenders and tobacco companies; and backing the death penalty.
Torrent, an energy lawyer, did little campaigning, raised little money, and was defended at times by volunteers for Saslaw. At one point, Torrent’s Twitter account — which had just 71 followers Tuesday night — retweeted a Saslaw campaign staffer who made a video promoting Saslaw. Torrent attributed the retweet to “user error.”
Thomas paid a political price for his Medicaid expansion vote; Paul Milde, a former supervisor from Stafford County, upset Thomas in a Republican primary fueled by Thomas’ pro-expansion vote.
Thomas was elected in 2017 to succeed former House Speaker Bill Howell in District 28. Spending in the race was pushing $400,000 each for Thomas and Milde, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Milde will face Democrat Joshua Cole in the fall. Thomas had edged Cole in the 2017 general election.
Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst with FiveThirtyEight, tweeted Tuesday that Democrats will probably be pleased that the more conservative Milde upset the incumbent in what “could be a very competitive district in the fall.”
Hanger is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but Freitas, whose husband, Nick, is a Republican delegate from Culpeper and a former U.S. Senate candidate, had criticized Hanger over his support of Medicaid expansion and said he is not conservative enough on abortion and gun issues.
Hanger, who disputed those concerns, publicized endorsements from some prominent Virginia Republicans, including former Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen, and from former Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th.
In the fall, Hanger, 70, a senator since 1996, will face Democrat Annette Hyde, a yoga teacher who lives in Madison County.
In other races:
- Del. Cheryl Turpin, D-Virginia Beach, defeated Susan Hippen, a retired Navy master chief, and Kim Howard, a former naval commander, to become the party’s nominee in Virginia Beach-based Senate District 7. Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, had opted not to seek re-election and has since joined Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.
- Turpin will face Republican Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot, who on Tuesday defeated Virginia Beach School Board member Carolyn Weems in a primary.
- Suhas Subramanyam, a Democrat from Loudoun, won a four-person primary in House District 87 for the chance to succeed Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun, who is running for state Senate. Subramanyam is a lawyer and technology consultant who was named a White House technology policy adviser to President Barack Obama.
- Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, easily defeated primary challenger Nicole Merlene, the policy director for a trade association. Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, easily defeated JD Spain, a retired Marine who is head of the county’s NAACP branch.
Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, a Democratic Socialist, won against primary challenger Mark Wolfe, a former Republican and member of the Manassas City Council.
In Charlottesville, University of Virginia Professor Sally Hudson defeated City Council Kathy Galvin in a Democratic primary to replace retiring House Minority Leader David Toscano.