RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Polls open for Virginia’s June Primary at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Thirty-five statewide races are happening during the primary; 16 Senate races, 11 for Democrat and 5 for Republican. In the House, there are 19 races, 12 Democrat and 7 Republican. Come November, voters will decide who sits in all 140 seats in Virginia’s State Capitol.
“If voters stay home from the primary, they may find themselves with few choices in the general election,” Rich Meagher, associate professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College, said.
A number of longtime lawmakers are being challenged in their districts’ primaries. Meagher says this is a trend seen across the nation, bringing more newcomers to politics.
“The party polarization is driving more interest in these elections and it’s definitely driving challengers,” he explained. “If the parties are more extreme, if the parties are less towards the middle, it’s more likely that a moderate incumbent is going to be challenged from the outside.”
One example is the race for the 24th Senate seat, currently held by Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger. The incumbent was a key vote in getting Medicaid expansion passed in Virginia during the 2018 General Assembly Session.
That vote drummed up challengers, Meagher says.
“You have a couple of moderates in the Republican party, who for example, voted for Medicaid expansion. They’re getting challenged from hardcore conservatives in their district who think that kind of vote was a betrayal of Republican principles,” he explained.
Hanger is competing against Tina Freitas, who’s served on a number of GOP committees and contributes to multiple conservative media outlets. She is also the wife of GOP Del. Nick Freitas, who ran for Congress against Corey Stewart last year.
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The scandals surrounding the top three Democrats in office; Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, could also impact how the elections will play out over the next few years, but Meagher says it’s too soon to tell.
“The only exception would be is if there is super strong Democratic turn out both in the primaries here in June and in November for Democratic candidates,” Meagher explained. “If the blue wave is real and continues to maintain itself even with all of the destabilization in Virginia that’s a good sign for Democrats and a bad one for Republicans in 2020 [Presidential Election].”
If you’re heading to the polls tomorrow, don’t forget to bring a form of identification with you. Click here for a full list of what you can bring.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 11.