In a night full of upsets, five challengers ousted incumbent Virginia lawmakers in Tuesday’s primary election, including a Trump-allied lawyer who unseated seven-term Del. Charles D. Poindexter (R-Franklin) and a left-leaning newcomer who bested centrist Del. Stephen E. Heretick (D-Portsmouth).
And Dels. Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas) and Mark H. Levine (D-Alexandria) both lost their runs for reelection while simultaneously pursuing unsuccessful bids for statewide office — an unusual dynamic created by a delay in Census Bureau population data that affected the timing of redistricting and the House primaries.
Carter, a self-described socialist who was running for governor, lost the House race to small-business owner Michelle Maldonado, a political novice. Levine, who was seeking the nomination for lieutenant governor, lost his House race to Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who accused him of treating his constituents as an afterthought.
In the 79th District, Nadarius Clark, 26, framed himself as a progressive alternative to Heretick, 61, whom he attacked for accepting money from Dominion Energy and voting against bills to ban assault weapons, end qualified immunity for police officers and empower localities to make decisions about Confederate statues.
Wiping tears outside his victory party in Portsmouth on Tuesday night, Clark told WAVY-10 he couldn’t help feeling emotional, “because people like me don’t normally get this opportunity to represent their community.”
“It’s just so remarkable we had the opportunity to do this,” said Clark, who is Black, “to show Virginia that a young 26-year-old can make a difference in their community. They can be the change they want to see.”
At Second Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Kimberly Welch and her mother, Wilma Welch, said they voted for Clark because of his youth and energy.
“We need someone young who can carry on,” Wilma Welch said.
Only on Ten. The emotional joy Nadarius Clark had after winning the democratic primary in the 79th House of Delegates race. @WAVY_News pic.twitter.com/ahRXhWq2G2— Andy Fox (@AndyFoxWAVY) June 9, 2021
Poindexter lost by roughly 25 percentage points to Wren Williams, who counseled President Donald Trump’s campaign during the Wisconsin recount — a sign of Trump’s firm hold on the GOP in parts of the state where he, and his false claims of a stolen election, remain deeply popular.
Williams, former chairman of the Patrick County Republican Committee in Southwestern Virginia, emphasized his support of Trump’s challenges to the 2020 election and said Poindexter had not sufficiently backed the former president’s efforts.
The ousted incumbents were among 17 who faced primary challengers — three Republicans and 14 Democrats. The races unfolded against the backdrop of rapid change in Virginia, as the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly legalized marijuana, abolished the death penalty and approved a series of gun-control laws over the past two years.
In Virginia Beach’s 83rd District, Republican Chris Stolle was narrowly trailing Trump-allied lawyer Tim Anderson, according to preliminary results. Both men were far ahead of newcomer Philip M. Kazmierczak. Stolle’s campaign manager said Wednesday that the candidate was waiting for a canvass to be completed before considering a recount.
Stolle, who held the seat before narrowly losing to Democrat Nancy D. Guy in 2019, is more aligned with the GOP’s traditional conservative wing. Anderson, meanwhile, has slung lawsuits at Democratic lawmakers and emphasized election security — which some voters found appealing.
Cyndy Welde said she chose Anderson because of his focus on voting-related matters, citing her concerns about the integrity of the November elections. “He’s very conservative, and that matters to me,” she said.
Shawn Iman, 54, voted for Stolle at Bayside Elementary School in Virginia Beach, based on his support for the military and opposition to higher taxes.
On the Democratic side, the close race between Samirah and Shin in Fairfax County showcased a divide between the party establishment and its more aggressive left flank.
Outside Fox Mill Elementary School in Herndon, the intraparty tensions were on full display. Samirah greeted voters, opening each conversation with “Hi, I’m your state delegate, Ibraheem Samirah.” State Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-Fairfax) was there as well, standing next to Samirah and telling voters to choose Shin, the director of a nonprofit voter advocacy group.
Samirah, who splashed onto the scene when he stood to yell, “You can’t send us back!” during a Trump speech in Virginia, has rankled party leaders with his rejection of the “Virginia way,” the rules of decorum that have governed Virginia politics for generations.
Boysko was one of several sitting lawmakers to endorse Shin, the daughter of Korean immigrants who has focused much of her campaign on health care access and affordable housing.
During the final days before the election, Shin’s donors — including a group with unknown ties called the Democratic Principles PAC — poured tens of thousands of dollars into the race. Samirah was at the Herndon school to inform voters of those donations, calling it “dark money” — as Boysko told them that Shin would be a more collaborative lawmaker in Richmond.
A few Democratic incumbents, including Heretick, faced challengers who said they were out of touch with Virginia’s increasingly liberal direction.
Jennifer Adeli insisted the formerly red 34th District, in parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, was trending to the left of Del. Kathleen J. Murphy — but Murphy easily came out on top, according to unofficial returns.
In Heretick’s 79th District, however, voters were looking for a change. The race illustrated the proxy battle between Dominion Energy and Clean Virginia — a PAC founded by hedge fund manager Michael Bills that supports candidates who refuse money from Dominion.
Clark outraised Heretick, mostly because of more than $550,000 from Clean Virginia; Bills’s wife, Sonjia Smith; and a PAC funded by Clean Virginia, according to data analyzed by VPAP.
Heretick accepted $134,000 from Dominion, saying he would not drink the “Michael Bills Kool-Aid.”
That same fight surfaced in Virginia’s 2nd District in Prince William County, home to Dominion Energy’s Possum Point power station and coal ash ponds.
Clean Virginia and its allies largely funded Pamela Montgomery’s challenge of Del. Candi Mundon King, who took money from Dominion when winning the seat in a special election in January. But King, who had strong support from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the House Democratic Caucus, easily defeated Montgomery, whom she had also beaten in the primary contest for the special election.
Del. Elizabeth R. Guzman (Prince William), a vocal ally for immigrants and blue-collar workers, defeated three challengers despite initially spending time running for lieutenant governor. She dropped out of that race this spring.
But Levine’s statewide ambitions ended up derailing his bid for a fourth term in the House.
At a polling location in Alexandria earlier Tuesday, Levine was still trying to explain to voters that he was running for two offices. “I’m Mark Levine, I’m your delegate and I’m on the ballot twice,” he told one couple.
Attorney Franklin Turner, 38, responded: “Oh we love you, we know all about you, we’re voting for you twice.”
It wasn’t enough. Bennett-Parker beat him by about 20 percentage points, according to unofficial returns.
Jim Morrison in Virginia Beach and Teo Armus and Antonio Olivo in Northern Virginia contributed to this report.
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