GOP hoping primaries help signal success in November
By Anita Kumar,
RICHMOND — Voters in Northern Virginia will go to the polls Tuesday to elect party nominees in nine legislative districts — six for state Senate and three for the House of Delegates — that might help determine whether Republicans will make significant gains in the fall elections.
The Senate races include a pair of Democratic-leaning districts that are open because of the retirements of longtime legislators, Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington) and Sen. Patricia S. Ticer (D-Alexandria), three GOP challenges to Democratic incumbents and one newly created district.
The House races are in two new districts centered in the growing counties of Loudoun and Prince William.
A third House race, in one of the most solidly Democratic districts in the state, might be decided Tuesday unless a Republican or third-party candidate jumps in at the last minute.
In a Democratic primary, Alfonso Lopez, who worked for the U.S. Small Business Administration and was former governor Timothy M. Kaine’s director of the Virginia Liaison Office, faces Stephanie Clifford, director of special events at the Podesta Group. No candidate from another party is running, and Tuesday is the filing deadline for those planning to run in the general election.
The General Assembly drew new maps this summer to bring the 140 districts of the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-held House into alignment with population shifts detailed in the 2010 Census.
The plans give Northern Virginia a new senator and three new delegates, all in the region’s growing outer suburbs. The region has half of the state’s primaries.
Republicans are in a fierce battle to take control of the Senate, where Democrats hold a fragile 22-to-18 majority, and hope to pick up a handful of seats in the GOP-led House.
If they are successful, it would be the second time since Reconstruction that the party held the governor’s mansion, House and Senate at the same time in Virginia.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and Speaker William J. Howell (Stafford) are looking for allies to pass school choice bills, immigration enforcement, pension changes and other party priorities that have died in recent years under a Democratic-led Senate.
Republicans have far outpaced Democrats in recruiting and fundraising, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.
“We are ideally positioned to become the majority party in the Senate of Virginia, and our success in recruiting strong candidates across the commonwealth confirms we have the momentum to win in November,” said Sen. Thomas K. Norment (James City), the Republican leader in the Senate.
Republicans are eyeing possible pickups in Southside, Southwest and Hampton Roads. They also are hopeful that they can win both new Senate seats — one in Northern Virginia and the other west of Richmond — and possibly the seat held by Democratic Sen. Linda T. “Toddy” Puller (D-Fairfax), which includes portions of Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties.
Republicans had $13.7 million in the bank, compared with $7.4 million for Democrats, including committees controlled by candidates, parties and leaders.
Senate Democrats have candidates in the 24 districts where they hold the seat or where it is up for grabs, including the two new seats. But they have not yet fielded candidates in any of the seats where a GOP incumbent is running.
Whipple, who is her party’s caucus chairman, said that recruiting is a “phony measurement” of how well a party is doing but that Democrats might still field a candidate or two before Tuesday’s deadline. She also said the party will have plenty of money for the races despite being outraised by McDonnell, who had nearly $3 million as of June 30.
2:1 The approximate cash advantage Republicans had over Democrats as of June 30. SOURCE: VIRGINIA PUBLIC ACCESS PROJECT 22:18 The fragile majority Democrats currently have in the state Senate.