Two incumbent Henrico County supervisors will move on to the November general election after warding off challenges in Tuesday’s primary while the outgoing sheriff’s top deputy earned her party’s nomination to replace him.
In the Three Chopt District, Supervisor Tommy Branin defeated Dishant Shah for the Republican nomination, while Frank Thornton, who has represented the Fairfield District since 1996, beat Maurice Tyler and Joseph Brown for the Democratic nomination.
In the countywide sheriff’s race, Chief Deputy Sheriff Alisa Gregory won half the vote to handily defeat Richmond Police detective Harold Ford and retired Virginia Capitol Police officer James Layne for the Democratic nomination.
Gregory, the county’s first female chief deputy sheriff, faced headwinds going into Tuesday’s primary, as several Democratic activists had raised questions about her decision to run as a Democrat just weeks after signing a loyalty pledge with the Henrico Republican committee in February.
“I talked to people, I explained to them what I’ve done, and what I want to do. And they listened,” she said about addressing the controversy with voters.
According to unofficial results from the Virginia Department of Elections, Branin and Thornton each coasted to victory with approximately 65 percent of the vote in their respective districts.
With no other candidate signed up to run in Three Chopt, Branin is expected to go on to a second term on the Board of Supervisors.
Throughout his campaign, Shah, a neuroradiologist, railed against Branin, who served on the Henrico Planning Commission for 10 years before winning his seat on the board in 2015, alleging that he has not done enough to curb what Shah described as out-of-control development in Three Chopt.
In response to Shah’s attacks, which included an advertisement that questioned the approximately $60,000 the real estate and development industry gave Branin in the past four years, Branin put out a video apologizing for Shah’s “nasty campaigning.”
“I think we made a statement by running a very positive campaign when the rest of the nation — from federal, state to local — don’t. I think the large margin is a statement from the people,” Branin said.
In a phone interview, Shah congratulated Branin on the win, and said he is proud of the campaign he ran.
“The people who heard our message will hopefully be looking to a better Henrico. They’ll be asking the right questions,” he said.
Tyler, a community activist, focused his campaign on crime prevention and uplifting impoverished neighborhoods in the Fairfield District. Tyler refrained from attacking Thornton, but often said new representation is needed to energize the district.
Thornton, who has served on the board since 1996, said his victory shows that people still trust him to lead the county.
“I think that sometimes we can be hypercritical,” he said. “We just need to be careful of that. When we look at the Fairfield District today, compared to 1996, there’s a big difference. Things have improved.”
Tyler also congratulated his opponent, and said he intends to continue advocating for improvements and safety in the district. Brown could not be reached for comment.
Thornton is expected to face at least one opponent in November, independent candidate Delta R. Bowers.