In Virginia Primary Contests, All Eyes on ‘Flippable’ Districts

Campaign signs outside the Midlothian polling station. (Photo by Brad Kutner)

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Virginians are going to the polls Tuesday to cast votes in state and congressional primary races. The state is home to at least three districts considered to be “flippable” in the November midterm election, and a statewide GOP primary will decide who will face incumbent Democratic senator and former vice president candidate Tim Kaine.

Republican voters have the choice between Prince William County manager and long-time firebrand Corey Stewart, establishment-favorite Nick Freitas and Virginia Beach-area Pastor E. W. Jackson. All three candidates ran with the hopes of supporting Donald Trump, but voters from across the state had to make a choice.

In the Richmond suburb of Midlothian, regular-voters  Elliott and Nivia Woodaman came out to support Freitas. “He’s an old Green Beret and I was in the Navy doing something similar,” Elliott said as Nivia chimed in with “we like Freitas more.”

Jeff Green, another Midlothian native, said Corey Stewart was the only choice for him and other Republicans. He claimed Freitas, despite support from the state party, had shown disloyalty to Trump and Jackson lacked the name-recognition to earn his vote.

“Anybody who’s paying attention to the information that’s out there will not vote for Freitas,” Green said stressing the state needs someone who will stand up for Trump, who, he said, has improved the economy and is “the most successful president of all time.”

John Richmond, a native of Manassas, Virginia, about 20 miles west of Washington, also said he would support Stewart.

A dog awaits its owner’s choice at the Henrico polling station. (Photo by Brad Kutner)

“He will represent our president like he should be represented,” Richmond said. “People may not like that, but [Stewart] speaks his mind and he’s on the right side of the whole immigration problem.”

Down in Virginia Beach, E.W. Jackson did have some home-field support.

“Our country was built on biblical foundations and I came out here to vote because I feel like our country has gotten away from the values that make our country great,” said local resident Salisa Thomas.

She said Stewart had visited her church and that helped cement her support for him.

“He supports the biblical views,” she said, hoping to see a return when the bible is taught in public schools.

While the GOP Senate race dominated Republican voters’ minds, Virginia’s 2nd, 7th and 10th districts were the top priority for Democrats.

In the 10th district, Alexandria resident Elise Spangler said she voted for state Senator Jennifer Wexton this year, but she admits she voted for Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock in 2016.

“I appreciated Comstock going against Republicans at first [when it came to] Obamacare,” she said, noting she’s since come to rely on Obama’s trademark healthcare legislation. “[Obamacare] wasn’t perfect, but it helped me.”

Comstock’s seat is considered the most flippable in Virginia as the progressive suburbs outside the District of Columbia make up most of the district, and the Trump administration has motivated voters like Spangler to do what they can to counter his efforts.

A “vote here” sign outside the Midlothian polling station. (Photo by Brad Kutner)

It’s time to get the Democrats back in control everywhere we can,” she said.

Mark Ballou, a Fairfax resident, threw his support behind Army Veteran Dan Helmer.

“[Helmer] didn’t want to expand conceal and carry like [Wexton] did,” he said, noting Trump’s response to gun issues have forced voters like himself to look at firearm laws more closely. “[Helmer] seems like a really honest guy who will follow through.”

In Virginia’s 2nd District, a reliably-red district which the nonpartisan Cook Political Report suggests is flippable this year, Democratic voters showed interest in both of their party’s candidates.

Those candidates are vying for a chance to challenge incumbent Republican and Navy veteran Scott Taylor in November.

David Frohwitter said he came out to support teacher Karen Mallard. “She best emphasizes the democratic views,” he said. “She’s not a Republican in Democratic clothing.”

But Kevin Kennedy, a veteran who said he was voting to make sure whoever gets elected stops Trump’s agenda, pulled the lever for Navy veteran Elaine Luria.

“Everyone thinks Democrats aren’t in the military,” he said. “I’m trying to get more military in the Democratic side.”

In Virginia’s 7th District, home to Incumbent Republican Dave Brat, an economics professor, Democrat voters are choosing between former-Obama State Department official Dan Ward and former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger.

The massive, and usually red district spans both Richmond’s suburbs and the heart of the state’s rural midsection. Brat’s support of the president has spurred a lot of activism among female voters and that was on view this morning.

“[Spanberger] shared some of the same priorities that I did,” said Murial Azria-Evens, a Henrico voter and one of the three women Courthouse News spoke to who said they expressed support for Spanberger in today’s race.

Azria-Evens said she was a regular voter and had participated in primaries in the past, but since Trump’s win in 2016, she’s never been more motivated to get herself and those around her involved.

“We thought [2016] would be different,” she said, saying she now works to speak with people outside her normal ideological circles to make sure they know what Trump is doing to the country. “My assumption that ‘everyone votes’ was questioned and I want to make sure that never happens again.”

Virginia polls close at 7 P.M.

CNS reporters Jocelyn Rardin and Brandi Buchman contributed to this report.

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