Other key races included a GOP primary to decide who will challenge Rep. Elaine Luria (D) in the military heavy 2nd District. Former congressman Scott W. Taylor, who lost the Virginia Beach seat to Luria in the 2018 blue wave, defeated two Republican opponents, paving the way for a rematch in November. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the general election a toss-up.
Webb, 37, easily defeated his three Democratic opponents and will face Bob Good, a self-described “biblical” conservative, in the 5th District general election. Democratic enthusiasm about the race grew after GOP voters nominated the untested Good over Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in a convention earlier this month, and analysts changed the race from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.”
David Wasserman, an expert on House races with Cook, called Webb’s huge margin of victory on Tuesday “astounding” and said it marked a “sea change in what Democratic voters are looking for.”
Webb’s biography and focus on social justice seems tailor-made for the moment, Wasserman said, as Americans are gathering across the country to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
“To win this, Democrats need a massive margin in Charlottesville, high black turnout in Southside and a weak and controversial Republican opponent,” Wasserman said. “And right now they may be firing on all three cylinders.”
Webb had more than three times the votes of his nearest opponent, with nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns.
In an interview, he said he offers a “message of unity and inclusion that this county, this commonwealth and this district are just clamoring for.”
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) moved the primary date from June 9 to June 23 and encouraged voters to cast absentee ballots, in hopes of reducing the possibility of spreading the novel coronavirus at polling places.
Unlike states such as Maryland, Virginia did not take the step of automatically mailing ballots to registered voters. But the state waived a requirement that a witness sign the outside of each absentee ballot and made it easier for people to request absentee ballots.
Several voters from both parties who voted in person said this year’s election was important enough to take the public health risk.
At Warrenton Community Center, voters stopped at a table before the official check-in point to use hand sanitizer. After voters filled out their ballots, they could collect an “I Voted” sticker from a volunteer who sat with a face shield behind scratched plexiglass.
In Manassas, Amanda Duffy, 33, a seventh-grade teacher, said she wanted to practice what she preached.
“I teach my kids: Every election matters, every voice matters, every vote matters,” she said. “So if I’m not doing that, it’s a little bit hypocritical of me to expect that my students feel like their voices matter.”
A Senate opponent for Warner
In the Senate primary, Gade easily defeated Alissa Baldwin, a civics and economics teacher in Nottoway County Public Schools, and Thomas A. Speciale II, an Army reservist and Cub Scout master who owns a firearms training company.
Gade, who worked in the administration of President George W. Bush and used to teach at the U.S. Military Academy, had the support of the party establishment and far outraised his primary opponents.
Beverly King, 68, said she voted for Gade to bring a fresh perspective to the Senate. She said she was slightly worried about potential exposure to the coronavirus, but not enough to stay home.
“The world’s changing,” she said at her Manassas polling place. “You have to vote.”
Warner is seeking a third term on the strength of his reputation as a bipartisan centrist and popular former Virginia governor who has investigated Russian interference in U.S. elections as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Although he nearly lost his 2014 reelection bid to Republican Ed Gillespie, Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University, said Warner will be heavily favored this November. Virginia has not elected a Republican statewide in more than a decade, and President Trump is not popular in densely populated Northern Virginia.
“The winds are at his back, if you will,” Kidd said of Warner. “Virginia structurally is a really tough place to be a Republican this year.”
Taylor vs. Luria
Some voters in Virginia Beach — in the state’s 2nd Congressional District — had to vote by provisional ballot because electronic poll books were programmed incorrectly. The national parties closely tracked the three-way primary in the swing district.
Taylor is a former Navy SEAL, a native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and a former state lawmaker.
An uptick in anti-Trump sentiment, and a scandal over fraudulent signatures that his campaign collected to help a potential spoiler candidate get on the ballot, sunk Taylor’s campaign against Luria two years ago, analysts say.
On Tuesday, he defeated Ben Loyola Jr., a retired Navy captain and defense contractor whose family fled communist Cuba when he was 2 years old, and Jarome Bell, a retired naval chief petty officer.
At his election night party, Taylor said Luria broke her promise to work during her first term with Trump, who endorsed Taylor last week.
“There is no question that Elaine Luria is not at all who she says she was,” he said in a speech streamed live on Facebook. “She is exactly who we said she was.”
Webb vs. Good
The four-way Democratic primary in an expansive central and Southside Virginia district garnered national attention when GOP voters nominated Good over Riggleman, who had angered religious conservatives by presiding over the same-sex wedding of two former campaign aides.
Democrats believe they have a shot at winning the seat for the first time since Tom Perriello won a single term in 2008, before the tea party ousted him in part for voting for the Affordable Care Act.
Webb easily defeated R.D. Huffstetler, a Marine veteran and former congressional chief of staff with Silicon Valley experience; John Lesinski, a retired Marine Corps colonel and former elected official in Rappahannock County who works in commercial real estate; and Claire Russo, a former Marine intelligence officer and advocate for victims of military sexual assault who had been endorsed by Emily’s List.
In rural Warrenton, Bryce Burrell, 21, said he felt unsettled by Good’s nomination, at a time when he was already reckoning with his place as a black man in the fight for racial justice.
He voted for Webb and said he liked the Democrat’s plans for health care, policing issues and his relationship with the African American community in rural Virginia.
“I feel like this country is leaning more right, more toward a fascist state,” said Burrell, who will soon begin a masters in fine arts program at Virginia Tech. “I think all the time about how we need to start leaning the pendulum left and pushing the ballot left.”
Cheryl Crow, 63, voted for Russo. “We just need more women in Congress,” she said. “And I like her stance on guns.”
Her husband, Richard Crow, 67, voted for Webb for his “deep knowledge as a lawyer and a doctor.” But was careful when discussing gender with his wife of 36 years.
“I don’t want to be that old white guy,” he said, embracing her.
Other congressional races
The other primaries drew less attention. In Virginia’s solidly red 1st District, Democrat and human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid narrowly defeated Vangie Williams, a strategic planner who was the party’s 2018 nominee. Rashid will challenge Rep. Rob Wittman (R).
Marine veteran John Collick won the GOP nomination in the 3rd District to challenge Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D), the longest-serving member of the Virginia congressional delegation and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Collick defeated Madison Downs, a teacher and community developer; and George Yacus, a former Navy pilot and consultant for the U.S. Coast Guard.
In the 4th District Democratic primary, Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D), an attorney and former state senator first elected to Congress in 2016, easily beat technology consultant Cazel Levine.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has served in Congress since 2009, defeated 11th District challenger Zainab Mohsini, a community activist.
Connolly, McEachin and Scott will all be heavily favored in November.
Davies reported from Warrenton.