McAullife Wins Gubernatorial Nomination in Virginia’s Democratic Primary

Winner of the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, gestures as he addresses the crowd during an election party in McLean, Va., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Former Virginia Governor Terry McAullife may be the third man in Virginia’s history to hold the state’s executive office seat for a second time after securing a win in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.

With nearly all precincts reporting, McAullife had 62% of the vote as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, easily besting his competitors. Jennifer Carrol Foy, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates came in second with 20% of the vote.

Governors cannot serve consecutive terms in Virginia, but McAuliffe presided over the commonwealth from 2014 to 2018 as the state’s red roots shifted blue before finally becoming the home of the Blue Wave as he left office. With current Governor Ralph Northam going out the door, the former Democratic National Committee Chair led in polling throughout the first part of the year and was expected to win based on name recognition alone. 

Northern Virginia-area Delegate Hala Ayala will vie for the lieutenant governor’s seat in the fall. With 37% of the vote, she beat Roanoake-area Delegate Sam Rasoul, who was at 25% late Tuesday.

Susan Swecker, chair of the state’s Democratic Party, praised Ayala in a statement Tuesday.

“Throughout her time in the General Assembly, Hala Ayala has fought hard for historic legislation to help Virginia families. Hala has been a proven advocate for progress, and played a key role in expanding Medicaid, ratifying the ERA, raising the minimum wage, and much more. After flipping her district from red to blue in 2017, Hala knows what it takes to win against far-right Republicans,” Swecker said.

“With the first Afro-Latina to be nominated for lieutenant governor on our ticket, I know Virginia Democrats will do whatever it takes to help Hala Ayala make history in November,” she added.

In the race for the nomination for attorney general, incumbent Mark Herring garnered 56% of the vote to beat Delegate Jay Jones, who had 43% of the vote.  

Herring, who would serve a third term if he wins in November, made headlines in his first term for refusing to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. During Donald Trump’s presidency he topped news feeds by filing numerous suits against the then-president. On the campaign trail, Herring promised to continue the Democratic majority’s priorities of racial justice and other progressive issues. 

The results aren’t yet final as mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive by Friday at noon will be counted.

Beyond the top of the ticket, the races for several down-ballot House of Delegates seats presented some surprises Tuesday. Democrats currently hold a five-seat majority in what is considered the Western Hemisphere’s oldest legislative body and all 100 of the General Assembly’s seats are up for grabs this fall.

Democratic Socialist Lee Carter, a Manassas-based delegate representing District 50, lost to small business owner and former attorney Michelle Maldonado by 200 votes.

Carter also ran for governor, but he was on track to come in last in that contest with a little less than 3% of the vote as of Tuesday evening.

In the southwestern corner of the state, Wren Williams beat out incumbent Charles Poindexter in the Republican Primary for the District 9 seat. Williams is a former chairman of the rural Patrick County Republican Committee who claimed to work with Trump’s legal team to try to uncover fraud during the 2020 election. He outraised Poindexter by nearly $100,000, though over $130,000 came from a personal loan to his campaign. Williams had about 63% of the vote as of 11:30 p.m.

Several high-profile incumbents faced challengers infused by money from a Charlottesville-based Democratic donor couple, Michael Bills and Sonjia Smith and their political action commitees Clean Virginia and Commonwealth Forward. The two have run a personal fundraising war against Dominion Energy, the state’s coal and natural gas power operator. As Dominion’s Republican allies lost seats to progressive, Bills and Smith have risen to support clean energy supporting Democrats.

That funding appears to have worked in Norfolk-area District 79 where Democratic incumbent Steve Heretick fell against challenger Nadarius Clark. Heretick is currently under investigation for “racketeering and fraud” while Clark received over half a million dollars from Bills, Smith and their PACs.

The clean energy-loving power couple similarly spent big in District 2, a staunchly Democratic coastal district currently held by incumbent Candi King, who filled a vacancy just before the January session. She had 69% of the vote as of late Tuesday.

Smith spent $391,000 of her own money on King’s opponent, Pamela Montgomery, and Clean Virginia threw in an additional $145,000. But King racked up endorsements and money from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

In District 45, incumbent Democrat Mark Levine lost to small business owner and town of Alexandria’s Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. Levine, who is one of the General Assembly’s loudest anti-gun voices, had also put his hat in the ring for the lieutenant governor nomination.

Bennett-Parker got $22K from Smith this year, while Levine got money from Clean Virginia the year before.

In the Richmond suburb of District 68, incumbent nurse practitioner Dawn Adams won 61% of the vote against employment lawyer Kyle Elliot, who had 39% of the vote as of Tuesday evening. Adams is one of the first and few openly lesbian elected officials in the state, and she made headlines when she beat out Republican Manoli Loupassi in 2017 with a razor thin margin, flipping the once deeply red district.

Elliot, meanwhile, got $81K from Smith, although Adams was endorsed by Clean Virginia. 

Clean Virginia took to Twitter to clarify Clean Virginia and Smith are separate entities and the individual “in some cases, contradicts the giving of Clean Virginia or our founder and her husband Michael Bills.”

Adams’ seat should be safe for Democrats, however, as the Republican nominee, businessman Mark Earley is reportedly facing an investigation over district residency issues.

Karishma Mehta, a Democratic Socialist with impressive individual small donations, failed to overcome incumbent Alphonzo Lopez in the Washington DC suburb of District 49. 

Reston-area incumbent Ibraheem Samirah was neck and neck with newcomer and community organizer Irene Shin for his seat in District 86. Samirah made headlines in 2019 when he protested Trump’s appearance at the state’s 400th anniversary celebration. The two appeared to split on some progressive issues, but both candidates represent the area’s increasingly diverse population. Shin was up by a few hundred votes late Tuesday.

Tuesday’s results come after the Virginia Republican Party held their statewide primaries back in May with a decentralized convention. Businessman and political newcomer Glenn Youngkin beat out other candidates for the party’s gubernatorial nomination while Virginia Beach Delegate Jason Miyares won the nomination for attorney general, and former Delegate Winsome Sears will run for lieutenant governor. 

In a statement, Youngkin welcomed McAuliffe to the race before stressing what he considered to be problems in the state that he says started with the former governor’s first term.

“Our Commonwealth is less safe than it was 8 years ago, does not provide the economic opportunity that Virginians deserve, and is more expensive for workers and families,” he said. “Voters from across the political spectrum agree that we need a new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia. Get ready, because Terry McAuliffe will default to the same political games he’s played his entire life.”

Virginians will go to the polls on Tuesday, November 2.

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