There were Hillary Clinton supporters — and establishment Republicans — who voted for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to send a message to Donald Trump. There were Muslims terrified of both the billionaire and his supporters. And there were others — many others, it seemed — who said they were voting for Trump because they love what he has to say.
Virginia’s open primary Tuesday delivered an emphatic win for Clinton and a narrower victory for Trump, who beat Rubio by a smaller margin than in any other contest this year. Regardless of whom they chose, many voters seemed driven by either enthusiasm or antipathy for Trump, the billionaire business mogul and Republican front-runner who has turned this presidential election season upside down.
“He says what it’s all about. He’s tired of the politicians,” said George Kurutz, 69, who came out early to vote for Trump in Prince William County, a bellwether jurisdiction, and rail about the “white-collar criminals” that he believes make up Congress.
“They’re all running for the next election,” Kurutz said.
In Norfolk, Neal and Karen Crawford cast their ballots for Rubio, saying that Trump lacks the temperament for the presidency. “Heaven help us if Trump wins the primary,” said Neal Crawford, a 53-year-old banker.
The strong feelings about Trump appear to have fueled higher turnout in Northern Virginia, particularly in the Republican primary (Virginia voters do not register by party and can request either a Democratic or a Republican ballot on primary day). Across the Washington suburbs, where Rubio’s strength was greatest, election officials said that more voters cast Republican ballots in Tuesday’s primary than had in 2008.
Dennis Arndt, 54, made it to Holy Trinity Church in Leesburg just in time to vote for Rubio, a choice he said he made because he was disgusted by other candidates’ rhetoric.
“His message started to rise above it,” Arndt said.
In liberal Arlington, legal secretary Madelon Bloom said she thought she could best help Clinton win the general election by casting her ballot for Trump. “I voted for Hillary by voting for Trump,” Bloom said outside Glebe Elementary School. “I think if Trump — I call him ‘Chump’ — gets the nomination, people will be appalled, and the Republicans won’t vote in November.”
Among Democratic voters, many were enthusiastic about Clinton, who had showered the state with attention in recent days and was declared the winner moments after the polls closed. But there were also some who spoke passionately about Bernie Sanders, her Democratic rival. Among those who cast Republican ballots, there was a strong swell of support for Rubio and — to a lesser degree — Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Amanda Rohrer, 23, a financial analyst from Arlington and self-described Republican, said that as a gay woman, the only GOP candidate she could support was Kasich. “I’m having a hard time finding a moderate candidate who is electable. “I can’t vote for Cruz or Trump.”
Clinton supporter Gladys Johnson of Richmond said she was excited about the potential to elect the first female president. “Our country is in bad shape,” said Johnson, 83. “It’s just time we get a lady in the White House as president. And I think she’ll do a marvelous job.”
Maria Cardona, 57, a day-care worker from Herndon who immigrated from El Salvador, said that Clinton “has a good heart,” adding that “the Democrats have a more human feeling than the Republicans for immigrants, whether they have papers or not.”
But some Clinton voters approached the polls with resignation, viewing the former secretary of state and first lady as merely the best of bad options. “I don’t really like anybody,” said Nick Mohler, 53, of Loudoun County, who said he went with Clinton because he thinks that she has a better chance than Sanders at succeeding with a Republican-dominated Congress. “I’m holding my nose this election.”
Several Democratic voters described Sanders as a likable but unrealistic candidate. Others saw him as a breath of fresh air.
“His ideas are to treat the common man well. And as a common man, I like that,” said Don Rawlings, 57, also a Loudoun voter.
Jaime Urteaga, 41, a real estate agent from Centreville who was born in Peru, took the plunge for Sanders. He usually considers himself a Republican but said he thinks “the Republicans have gone crazy.” He said he understands that some Americans feel that they are “losing their country” but commented that Trump represents “something close to fascism.”
More than a few Democrats who expressed a similar fear of Trump said their concerns drove them to vote on the Republican ballot.
Arlington resident Casey Stahl, 26, said he will support Clinton in the general election, reluctantly, but voted for Rubio on Tuesday in hopes of blocking Trump from the Republican nomination.
“There are plenty of candidates I’d like to oppose, but choosing one I’d like to support is harder,” said Stahl, who works for a defense contractor.
Norfolk city employee and Clinton supporter Jessica Dennis, 28, likewise cast her ballot for Rubio — believing that by doing so, she could help stop Trump. He “talks a lot and says a lot of words, but frequently, I don’t think he knows what he’s saying.”
Sherri Goldman, a Clinton supporter who also lives in Norfolk, said those kind of shenanigans were foolish. “One thing I’ve learned in my 60 years is you can’t take one vote for granted. You really can’t,” she said. “I lived in an area where seven votes separated the candidates for mayor.”
Goldman was one of several Clinton voters who said they were motivated by dread of a Trump presidency — a concern echoed by many of the Muslim voters who turned out in force in Northern Virginia.
Mohammed Khan, a 49-year-old transport-service worker from Ashburn, said he was afraid that Trump would “shut down all the mosques in America” if he became president.
Hassan Huruse, 42, a language instructor in Herndon who immigrated from Somalia, said he was worried that Trump’s negative rhetoric about Muslims and other immigrants might unleash a wave of violence if he becomes president.
“The radical views of a leader can have a powerful effect on people who are already angry. We have seen it in history,” Huruse said.
Officials at several mosques in the region, especially the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, said they set up phone banks last weekend and have spoken at community forums urging Muslims to vote and emphasizing that even this primary contest could be decisive.
“People are very excited now,” said Syed Ashraf, a community engagement volunteer at the mosque. “This is the first time many will vote in a primary, including me.”
Pamela Constable, Antonio Olivo, Fenit Nirappil, Jenna Portnoy, Patricia Sullivan and Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.