Local state delegates seek to fend off inter-party challenges in Tuesday’s Virginia House primaries

Capitol Connection

Virginia House of Delegates, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, addresses the House during opening ceremonies of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Before all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are on the ballot in November, primary voters in 17 districts held by incumbents will decide if they want to keep their state delegates or pick the challengers seeking to unseat them. 

A meaningful shift in the Virginia House is not expected in the June 8 primary as Democrats and Republicans will not face off until the Nov. 2 general election. But challenges from within each party could push some notable lawmakers out the door. 

Since winning control of the state legislature nearly two years ago, Virginia Democrats have passed a slew of measures that at one time seemed unfathomable in the commonwealth, including abolishing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana possession.

Virginia’s status as a blue state won’t get tested until the general election, when all three statewide offices are on the ballot as well, but party incumbents in the House are seeing far more challengers than their Republican counterparts. 

Fourteen of the 19 House Democratic primaries on Tuesday include an incumbent, compared to just three Republican state delegates who will be on the ticket. 

In the Richmond-area, three Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates could be voted out in favor of a primary challenger: Del. Dawn Adams (Richmond), Del. Jeff Bourne (Richmond) and Del. Lamont Bagby (Henrico). 

Del. Adams has represented the Virginia House’s 68th District, which includes parts of Chesterfield and Henrico counties and the City of Richmond, since 2018. She sits on key committees in the chamber, including general laws and privileges and elections. 

Adams is fending off competition from attorney Kyle Elliott, who served as an assistant city attorney for Richmond before working in a private practice. Elliott believes in “responsible gun ownership” and working to respect gun owners’ rights and decrease violence by “expanding and strengthening background checks.

Two Republicans, Mark Earley Jr. and Mike Dickinson, are vying for the GOP’s nomination in the 68th District primary as well. The candidates who come out on top from each side will go head-to-head in the general election. 

Del. Bourne, representing the 71st House District since 2017, serves as vice chair of the chamber’s public safety committee and was a former Richmond school board member. Richard Walker, a longtime activist and certified mental health professional, vows to be “the people’s delegate” as he competes for Bourne’s House seat. 

The 74th District in the Virginia House has been represented by Del. Bagby for nearly six years. Bagby, a former Henrico County school board member, is the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and serves on multiple House committees, including education and labor and commerce. 

John Dantzler II is challenging Bagby in the primary for the Democratic nomination in the general election but with no Republican running, the winner of Tuesday’s primary will be the presumptive delegate for the next two-year term. Dantzler came up short when previously running for the Henrico County Board of Supervisors in 2015.

The statewide Democratic ballot will have candidates vying for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general but specific districts will have House primaries and local races as well.

Voters can no longer vote early in person but polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Those mailing in their absentee ballot can drop them off at a local ballot drop box or send them through the mail as long as they arrive at your local registrar’s office by noon Friday.

Additional reading before Tuesday’s primary:

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