Democratic primaries take spotlight in House races
Democrats in Virginia are hoping to do their part in claiming control of the House of Representatives, and it begins with nominating a slate of candidates in Tuesday’s primary election.
The race receiving the most scrutiny is the 10th Congressional District, where six Democrats are vying for the chance to take on two-term GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock.
Comstock won with 53 percent of the vote in 2016 over a political newcomer. But Hillary Clinton carried the district easily in the 2016 presidential race, so many analysts believe an energized Democratic base could carry the day in November. Many political analysts rate the race a tossup.
Democrats are also waging closely watched contests in Hampton Roads and central Virginia.
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Democrats’ hopes for picking up a seat are highest in the 10th District, which stretches from the wealthy northern Virginia suburbs of McLean inside the Capital Beltway was through Loudoun County and out to Winchester.
The incumbent is Republican Barbara Comstock, who last won with 53 percent of the vote against political newcomer LuAnn Bennett.
Comstock is considered vulnerable because the district has shown a willingness to vote for Democrats. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the district by 10 points over Donald Trump in the presidential race.
Six candidates are vying to take on Comstock, including several who have successfully raised more than $1 million.
The favorite is state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, the only elected official on the Democratic ballot. She has the endorsement of Gov. Ralph Northam and lives in Loudoun, the heart of the district.
But Alison Friedman, an activist on human trafficking issues, has raised the most money and was first on the air with television ads. Other candidates include military veteran Dan Helmer, former congressional and Obama administration staffer Lindsey Davis Stover, former federal prosecutor Paul Pelletier and scientist Julia Biggins.
Comstock is facing a primary challenge of her own, from conservative challenger Shak Hill.
In the 6th District, which includes the Republican-leaning Shenandoah Valley, four Democrats — Sergio A. Coppola II, Jennifer Lynn Lewis, Peter J. Volosin and Charlotte Ann Moore — are running for the open seat now held by retiring Republican Bob Goodlatte. The winner of the Democratic primary will face State Delegate Ben Cline, a former Goodlatte staffer who won a nominating convention last month.
Of the four, Volosin has raised the most money — nearly $43,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
In the 2nd District along Virginia’s coast, national Democrats are backing former Navy commander Elaine Luria, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who spent 20 years on active duty.
She and her Navy veteran husband now own the Mermaid Factory, a small business with locations in Norfolk and Virginia Beach where customers drink wine and paint plaster casts of mermaids, a regional icon.
Some Democrats are upset that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already backed Luria before the primary. Luria will face off against the slightly more liberal Karen Mallard, a school teacher who supports universal health care and who is a strong critic of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
On the GOP side, freshman Republican Congressman Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL from Virginia Beach, faces off against Mary Jones, a former chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors.
In the Republican-leaning 7th District, which runs from Blackstone to Culpeper and includes parts of suburban Richmond, Democrats Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward are seeking their party’s nomination to challenge GOP incumbent Dave Brat.
Spanberger is a former CIA officer who moved to a private sector job with an educational services company in 2014. She lives in suburban Richmond. Ward is a former Marine Corps pilot who served as a State Department military adviser during the Obama administration. Now a civilian pilot, Ward lives in Orange. Both have raised more than $900,000.
Four years ago, Brat won a stunning upset in the Republican primary against then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the second-most powerful person in the House. At the time, Brat was a little-known economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, a small liberal arts school north of Richmond.
At a recent candidate forum outside of Richmond, Ward and Spanberger found common ground on most policy issues and emphasized their service to the country. Both criticized Brat, a member of the Freedom Caucus, with Ward calling him a yes-man to President Donald Trump and Spanberger calling him reckless.
Also campaigning are Libertarian Joe Walton and Helen Alli. Alli was initially running as a Democrat but withdrew in March to run as an independent and then was nominated by the newly formed Whig party.
In the 1st District, three Democrats — Vangie Williams, John B. Suddarth and Edwin Santana Jr. — are running to take on Republican incumbent Rob Wittman.
In the 9th District in southwest Virginia, Anthony J. Flaccavento and Justin D. Santopietro are running against GOP incumbent Morgan Griffith. Flaccavento was the Democrats’ nominee in 2012 and lost to Griffith by more than 20 points.