‘Nowadays, anything’s possible’: VCU professor on Va. politics as focus shifts to General Election

Capitol Connection

On Tuesday, Virginia voters made their selections for the November ballot.

Now that the primary has wrapped up, the focus shifts to the General Election. 

Alex Keena is an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s been following the races from the beginning.

“What is usual nowadays?” he said. “It used the be the rule was that the party decided, but that was before Trump. Nowadays, anything’s possible.”

Keena said one major takeaway from Virginia’s primary is that the establishment pick for a Republican challenger for Democrat Tim Kaine’s U.S. Senate seat lost. 

Several high-ranking Republicans threw their support behind Nick Freitas. Instead, voters went with Corey Stewart. 

“He didn’t get any high-profile endorsements from mainstream Republicans,” said Keena. “I would caution that, for Democrats, especially supporters of Kaine, you don’t want to rest on your laurels right now. Corey Stewart certainly seems like a fringe candidate. He doesn’t have mainstream support quite yet, but he has a very impressive network of grassroots donors.”

Stewart did, however, have name recognition. He recently ran for the GOP nomination for governor but lost to Ed Gillespie. 

On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted to congratulate Stewart on his primary win. He said not to underestimate the nominee and said he has “a major chance of winning.” 

Shortly after the primary results rolled in, Kaine’s communications director released a statement calling Stewart “a cruder imitation of Donald Trump.”

Keena said another race to watch closely is the 7th District, which includes parts of Chesterfield and Henrico counties. 

That’s where Republican incumbent Rep. Dave Brat will face Democrat Abigail Spanberger. 

“She’s raised a lot of money. She has a lot of grassroots support — but so does Brat,” said Keena. “You don’t really see that too often where the incumbent candidate and the challenger both have strong grassroots bases of support.”

WEB EXTRA: Watch the video below for more on how redistricting could impact the 7th District race. 

Keena said it is too soon to know what will happen come November, but there is one thing Virginians can expect. 

“We’re going to see a lot of negative campaigning in the next few months,” he said. “It might look a lot like the gubernatorial campaign we saw last year.” 

The General Election is Nov. 6. 

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