RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- In Tuesday’s Primary, Democrats in Virginia will choose which candidates should represent the party in November’s General Election.
Republicans already selected their statewide nominees in a convention last month, though both parties have local races on the ballot.
Political analysts caution that low turnout races in off-year elections can be difficult to predict but some leads stand out.
According to a new poll from Roanoke College, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe has an advantage in the packed field vying to become the party’s nominee for governor. He captured the support of 49% of voters, compared to former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy’s 11%, Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s 9%, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s 5% and Del. Lee Carter’s 1%.
The poll, which has a margin of error of +3.9%, is based on interviews with 637 likely Democratic voters who were interviewed between May 24 and June 1, according to a press release.
“It’s just tough to beat someone with that name recognition and money,” said the poll’s Senior Political Analyst Harry Wilson. “It’s Terry McAuliffe against the field and the field is splitting the anti-McAuliffe vote. I’m not sure the anti-McAuliffe vote would be big enough anyway.”
In previous debates, the four other candidates have generally made the case that Virginia needs a fresh face in the Executive Mansion.
While fundraising totals from the Virginia Public Access Project have also bolstered McAuliffe’s front-runner status, some aren’t ready to rule out an upset.
VCU Political Science Professor Alex Keena was cautious about making a prediction.
“It certainly looks like a one person race if you look at just the money but money doesn’t tell the whole story,” Keena said. “McClellan and Foy are running very strong campaigns and raising a lot of money. So you can’t count either of them out.”
The closest statewide contest on Tuesday is expected to be the lieutenant governor’s race, with nearly half of surveyed voters saying they were undecided.
The poll suggests a recent endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam may have given Del. Hala Ayala a slight boost but not a clear advantage. While she leads five other candidates with 15% support, Wilson said that’s not statistically significant.
Del. Sam Rasoul captured 9% of support, followed by Del. Mark Levine (7%), Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan( 7%), Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman (3%)
“The lieutenant governor’s race really seems to be wide open. There is almost no outcome there that would be surprising to me,” Wilson said. “That’s what happens when you have a lot of people running and none of them are extremely well known.”
Keena agreed the race was “impossible to predict” but said he would give the edge to Del. Rasoul based on his fundraising lead.
In the attorney general’s race, two-term incumbent Mark Herring appears to have an edge, despite Northam’s endorsement of his Democratic challenger Del. Jay Jones. The poll has Herring leading with 49% compared to Jone’s 20%.
“Polls are not predictions, they are a snap shot in time…but that margin would be really difficult to overcome,” Wilson said.
According to VPAP, a record number of Democrats in the House of Delegates are also facing challenges from within their own party this year, with fourteen vulnerable incumbents compared to three on the Republican side. Most, but not all of those incumbents, have a cash advantage.
“I think it probably says more about this generational moment that we’re witnessing and less about division within the Democratic party,” Keena said.