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Today, June 11, is primary election day. Yes, it’s “only” a primary. No big deal, right? Actually, primaries are very big deals. Just ask former Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor of Henrico or New York Rep. Joe Crowley. Both incumbents, the former a Republican and the latter a Democrat, were longtime politicians with plenty of political clout who were bested by relatively unknown opponents in primary elections.

Cantor’s successor, Dave Brat, lasted two terms before losing in the 2018 general election to now-Rep. Abigail Spanberger. It’s the first time that seat has been won by a Democrat since 1971. As for Crowley, his successor, now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. She has since become one of the House of Representatives’ most outspoken freshmen in memory. Yes, primaries have consequences.

Both Cantor and Crowley made the fatal mistake of underestimating precarious standings with their own constituents. As former House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to say, all politics is local. Voters are more concerned with who is going to best address hometown matters, such as community services, public safety and employment issues. When voters feel their politicians are no longer listening to them, they are going to look elsewhere.

Today in central Virginia, there are several state Senate and House of Delegates primaries being held. County and city leadership seats also are on many of the ballots. Not sure who is running? We have that information in today’s RTD news story “Here’s what you need to know ahead of Tuesday’s Virginia primaries.”

Americans are abysmally unappreciative of their voting rights — and Virginians are among the least so. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, during the 2018 primary contests, the commonwealth was one of five states with the lowest turnout. Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia each had a participation rate of 12% or lower. What a sad commentary on a state that touts itself as the birthplace of American democracy.

— Robin Beres

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