Several high-profile state lawmakers face challengers in Tuesday’s primaries, including the state Senate Democratic leader, the Republican co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and a first-term Republican delegate who upset some conservatives by supporting Medicaid expansion.
Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, a member of the legislature since 1976, is fighting a challenge from Yasmine Taeb, the first Muslim woman elected to the Democratic National Committee.
Saslaw spent more than $646,000 between Jan. 1 and May 31, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan organization that provides information about Virginia politics and political money. Taeb had spent $113,832.
Taeb has attacked Saslaw for not supporting collective bargaining rights; taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Dominion Energy, payday lenders and tobacco companies; and for his support of the death penalty.
Saslaw has responded that he is a trusted lawmaker backed by multiple unions and the Virginia Education Association, is a strong supporter of abortion rights who was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, and refers to himself as a “progressive leader.”
The 35 legislative primary contests around the state Tuesday include a number of notable matches outside the Richmond area
* Sen, Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, the co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, faces a challenge from Tina Freitas, whose husband, Nick, is a Republican delegate from Culpeper and a former U.S. Senate candidate. Hanger, a folksy politician who has at times broken with the GOP, has survived past primary challenges.
* Del. Bob Thomas, R-Stafford, was elected in 2017 to succeed former House Speaker Bill Howell, also of Stafford, in House District 28. On Tuesday, Thomas will go up against Paul Milde, a former Stafford supervisor who criticized Thomas for being among Republicans who voted to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
* Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, faces a challenge from Nicole Merlene, the policy director for a trade association. Favola apologized soon after saying of Merlene at a forum: “I know there’s a new flavor that you can look at, maybe think about, maybe it’s tantalizing.”
* Republicans and Democrats are holding primaries in the Hampton Roads race to succeed former Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, who recently joined the governor’s administration. On the Republican side, voters will choose between Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot, and Carolyn Weems,a member of the Virginia Beach School Board. On the Democratic side, voters will choose between Del. Cheryl Turpin, D-Virginia Beach; Kim Howard, a former naval commander; and Susan Hippen, a retired Navy master chief.
* Among other Northern Virginia contests: Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, faces a Democratic primary challenge from former Republican Mark Wolfe, a Manassas council member; Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, is challenged by Andres Jimenez, a former Democratic congressional staffer; and Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, is challenged by JD Spain, a retired Marine who is head of the county’s NAACP branch.