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Stories about Virginia

Hala Ayala wins Virginia’s lieutenant governor Democratic primary

Hala Ayala (D) won the Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial Democratic primary on June 8, 2021, defeating five other candidates. Ayala received with 39.1% of the vote, followed by Sam Rasoul (D) with 25.2% and Mark Levine (D) with 11.7%.

Andria McClellan, Sean Perryman, and Xavier Warren also ran in this election. At the time of the election, Ayala, Levine, and Rasoul all served in the Virginia House of Delegates. McClellan was elected to the Norfolk City Council in 2015. Perryman’s career experience includes working as the director of social impact at the Internet Association. Warren has worked as an NFL sports agent and lobbyist for non-profit organization.

Ayala will face Republican nominee Winsome Sears in the Nov. 2 general election. Sears won his party’s nomination at a May 8 nominating convention.

The lieutenant governor serves as the president of the Virginia State Senate and may cast tie-breaking votes. The lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession to the governor; in the event the governor dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor.

Of the four lieutenant governors who have been elected since 2002, three were Democrats and one was a Republican. Two of them, Tim Kaine (D) and Ralph Northam (D), went on to become governor. The lieutenant governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and, unlike the governor, may run for re-election.

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Incumbent Mark Herring wins Democratic attorney general primary in Virginia

Incumbent Mark Herring (D) defeated Jerrauld “Jay” Jones (D) in the Democratic primary for attorney general on June 8, 2021. Herring received 56.5% of the vote to Jones’ 43.5%.

Herring has served as Virginia’s attorney general since 2014. He was endorsed by U.S. Reps. Gerry Connolly (D) and Don Beyer (D), and The Washington Post. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) endorsed Jones.

Herring led the race in fundraising between January 1, 2020 and May 27, 2021. He raised $3.1 million and spent $1.9 million, while Jones raised $2.2 million and spent $2.0 million.

The general election for attorney general will take place on November 2. The Republican candidate is Jason Miyares (R), who won the May 8 Republican convention.

Herring was first elected in 2013, defeating Republican Mark Obenshain by 907 votes. A Republican candidate has not won statewide office in Virginia since 2009.



Former Virginia Gov. McAuliffe wins Democratic gubernatorial nomination

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe defeated four candidates to win the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination in Virginia. McAuliffe received 62.3% of the vote followed by former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy with 19.8% and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 11.5%. Two other candidates—Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and state Del. Lee Carter—received less than 5% of the vote each.

In addition to his tenure as Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018, McAuliffe chaired the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005 and was the national chairman of Hillary Clinton’s (D) 2008 presidential campaign.

Democratic Party leaders in Virginia supported McAuliffe’s primary campaign. He received endorsements from incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and 36 Democratic members of the Virginia General Assembly, including House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D) and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D).

McAuliffe will face Glenn Youngkin (R) in the general election. Three independent candidates—Princess Blanding, Paul Davis, and Brad Froman—will also appear on the general election ballot.

This was the fourth contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia since 1977. It was also the largest Democratic primary field for a gubernatorial nomination in the state’s history. Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia since 2012.

Virginia became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats gained majorities in the state House and Senate. In addition to the gubernatorial election, all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates will be up for election in November.



Seventy-nine percent of state legislative incumbents in New Jersey will not face a contested primary this year

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

Ninety percent of state legislative incumbents in New Jersey are seeking re-election in 2021. Of these 108 incumbents, 79%—85 legislators—will advance to the general election without a primary challenge, according to Ballotpedia’s primary election competitiveness analysis.

The remaining 23 incumbents—nine Democrats and 14 Republicans—will face contested primaries on June 8, 2021.

When an incumbent faces a contested primary, there is the chance he or she might be defeated before the general election, typically guaranteeing the seat to a newcomer. These defeats—along with retirements and general election losses—contribute to the overall incumbent turnover during each election cycle.

The most common cause of incumbent turnover is retirement, which, over the past decade, accounted for 70 percent of all state legislative turnover. Primary election defeats—at 10 percent—were the most uncommon cause of turnover.

Primary election defeats in New Jersey are especially rare. Since 2011, only one state legislative incumbent has been defeated in one: Assm. Joe Howarth, who lost in a 2019 Republican primary.

Contested incumbent primaries became more common in New Jersey during the 2017 state legislative elections. In 2019, the state saw a decade-high rate with around one-third of all incumbents facing primary challenges. The rate decreased to around one-fifth of all incumbents facing contested primaries in 2021 but remains higher than rates from the first half of the past decade.

Virginia is also holding state legislative elections in its House of Delegates in 2021. Based on preliminary data, the state is slated to see a decade-high rate of incumbents facing contested primaries at 18.1%. Out of the 100 incumbents, 94 are seeking re-election, 17 of whom will face contested primaries. Parties in Virginia use a mixture of primaries and conventions to select nominees. All primaries will take place on June 8 whereas convention dates are selected by district parties. Ballotpedia will update its primary competitiveness data for Virginia as it becomes available.

Ballotpedia is collecting primary election competitiveness statistics for all regularly-scheduled state legislative and state executive elections ongoing in 2021. Learn more here. Use the links below to view coverage of the New Jersey and Virginia state legislative elections:



Virginia municipal primaries to be held June 8 

The municipal primary elections in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Richmond in Virginia are scheduled for June 8. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for Nov. 2. 

The filing deadline to run for major party candidates passed on March 25. For minor party and independent candidates, the filing deadline is Aug. 13. Primary elections are canceled for offices where only one candidate from a party filed to run. 

Candidates filed to run for:

• Commonwealth’s attorney

• Sheriff 

• Treasurer

• Commissioner of revenue (for Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake only)

Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Richmond are the top four largest cities by population in Virginia. In the United States, they are the 39th-, 80th-, 90th-, and 100th-largest cities, respectively.

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Voters to decide state legislative primaries in New Jersey, Virginia on June 8

Two states—New Jersey and Virginia—are holding state legislative elections this year. Democratic and Republican voters in each state will be selecting nominees for these races on June 8.

In New Jersey, all 120 state legislative seats are up for election: 80 in the General Assembly and 40 in the state Senate.

Ninety percent of incumbents, or 108 legislators, are running for re-election, down from 2019 when 95% of incumbents ran for re-election.

A majority of incumbents running for re-election in 2021, 85 legislators, will not face a primary and will advance directly to the general election. The remaining 23—nine Democrats and 14 Republicans—face contested primaries. This is the lowest share of incumbents facing contested primaries in New Jersey since 2015.

Former Assm. Joe Howarth (R), who lost a primary in 2019, is the only state legislative incumbent to lose a primary in New Jersey since 2011.

Democrats have held majorities in both chambers of the New Jersey State Legislature since 2003 and currently hold a Democratic trifecta alongside incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who is also running for re-election in 2021.

In Virginia, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election. 

Ninety-four percent of incumbents filed to run for re-election to the House in 2021, more than 2019 (84%) and 2017 (93%). Of the six incumbents not seeking re-election, one is a Democrat and five are Republicans. 

Not all state legislative nominees in Virginia are chosen through a primary. District Democratic and Republican parties may choose to hold a nominating convention rather than a primary to pick their candidates. In 2021, at least 22 state legislative district parties—five Democratic and 17 Republican—chose conventions as their selection method.

In 2019, one House incumbent—Del. Robert Thomas Jr. (R)—lost in a primary election. Thomas’ defeat was the first for a House incumbent in Virginia since 2015 when Mark Berg (R) and Johnny Joannau (D) lost in their respective primaries.

This is the first state legislative election cycle in Virginia since Democrats won a majority in the House of Delegates. In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, creating a Democratic trifecta in Virginia for the first time since 1994. The chart below shows the change in partisan control of the House of Delegates since 2011.

To learn more about these state legislative elections, use the links below:



Winsome Sears wins convention to become Republican nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor

The Republican Party of Virginia nominated Winsome Sears (R) for lieutenant governor at their May 8 convention. Sears defeated Puneet Ahluwalia (R), Lance Allen (R), Glenn Davis (R), Tim Hugo (R), and Maeve Rigler (R). She was announced as the winner on May 11 after she defeated Hugo in the fifth round of ranked-choice voting with 54.4% of the vote to Hugo’s 45.6%.

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the 2021 Virginia Republican convention was an unassembled convention held across 39 satellite locations. Unlike previous conventions in the state, there was no limit on how many delegates could cast votes, which were weighted according to the number of delegate votes allocated to each locality.

Delegates cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting instead of holding multiple rounds of voting. In a ranked-choice vote, voters rank their preferred options rather than picking one. Ballot-counting takes place in rounds, with each voters’ first-place preference receiving their vote in the first round. If one candidate has more than 50% of votes, they win the election outright. Otherwise, the last-place finisher is eliminated and their votes redistributed among their voters’ next choices. The process is repeated until one candidate wins more than 50%.

Sears is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 2002 to 2004. She served on the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as vice president of the Virginia Board of Education, and as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The lieutenant governor serves as the president of the Virginia State Senate and may cast tie-breaking votes. The lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession to the governor. In the event the governor dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. Of the four lieutenant governors who have been elected since 2002, three were Democrats and one was a Republican.

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Redistricting review – a summary of this week’s map-making news

During this year and next, state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions will draft and implement new congressional and state legislative district maps that will be used for the next 10 years. We’ll bring you regular updates here in the Brew about all of the many redistricting goings-on. The pace is expected to be fast-and-furious in the coming months.

Ohio: On May 12, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was scheduled to hear oral argument in Ohio v. Coggins, in which Ohio officials are seeking to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data to the states ahead of its September 30 target date.

On Feb. 25, 2021, the state filed its lawsuit against the Census Bureau in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said, “The unavailability of decennial census data irreparably harms the State: the Ohio Constitution requires the State to use decennial census data during redistricting if the data is available, and allows the use of alternative data sources only as a second-best option. By blocking the State from conducting redistricting using decennial census data, the Census Bureau’s decision prevents the State from conducting redistricting in the constitutionally preferred manner.” The state asked that the court “issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable.”

Judge Thomas Rose, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, dismissed the lawsuit on March 24, 2021, writing, “The Court will therefore reject Ohio’s request for an order that pretends that the Census Bureau could provide census-based redistricting data by March 31, 2021. The Court cannot ‘order a party to jump higher, run faster, or lift more than she is physically capable.'” The next day, the state appealed Rose’s decision to the Sixth Circuit.

A similar lawsuit is pending in Alabama.

Virginia: On April 26, 2021, state Delegate Lee Carter (D) sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and asked for a formal opinion as to the “constitutionality of the 2021 elections for the House of Delegates being conducted under electoral districts established in 2011.” Carter asked Herring to address the following issues:

1. “The Constitutional authority, if any such authority exists, under which the Virginia Department of Elections is currently conducting the 2021 House of Delegates elections for the electoral districts established in 2011.”

2. “Whether, in the absence of timely data from the United States Census Bureau, the Virginia Redistricting Commission is Constitutionally bound to establish new electoral districts with the best available population data for the House of Delegates elections in the year 2021 and in each tenth subsequent year thereafter.”

As of May 6, 2021, Herring had not responded to Carter’s request for an opinion.

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Glenn Youngkin wins Republican nomination for governor of Virginia

The Republican Party of Virginia selected Glenn Youngkin as its nominee for governor in an unassembled convention on May 8. Youngkin received 55% of the delegate vote in the sixth and final round of vote-counting, which ended on May 10.

Incumbent Ralph Northam (D) is unable to seek re-election due to term limits, leaving the position open.

Youngkin is the former president of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm. He defeated six other candidates, including business owner Pete Snyder, state Sen. Amanda Chase, and former House Speaker Kirk Cox. Peter Doran, Octavia Johnson, and Sergio de la Pena also ran in the convention. The Republican Party chose to use ranked-choice voting in 2021. Results from each round of the vote-counting are shown below:

Youngkin submitted a Candidate Connection survey to Ballotpedia ahead of the convention. In it, he said, “We need a governor with real-world experience who can create jobs, keep businesses from leaving, put an open-for-business sign on Virginia, and create a rip-roaring economy that lifts all Virginians.”

Youngkin led the field of Republican candidates in fundraising. According to campaign finance reports, he raised $7.7 million as of March 31. Youngkin was also the largest target of satellite spending during the convention. Two organizations, Patriot Leadership Trust and Virginia Cornerstone PAC, spent a combined total of roughly $459,000 on advertisements and mailers opposing his candidacy.

The general election for Governor of Virginia will be held on Nov. 2, 2021. Youngkin will face the winner of the June 8 Democratic primary and independent candidates Princess Blanding, Paul Davis, and Brad Froman.

The last Republican to win the governorship in Virginia was Bob McDonnell (R), elected in 2009. In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, creating a Democratic trifecta in the state for the first time since 1994.

To learn more about the Republican convention for Governor of Virginia, click here.



Virginia GOP nominates Jason Miyares for attorney general in statewide convention

Jason Miyares defeated Leslie Haley, Chuck Smith, and Jack White to win the Republican Party of Virginia’s nomination for state attorney general at the 2021 convention.

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the 2021 Virginia Republican convention was an unassembled convention held across 39 satellite locations. Unlike previous conventions, there was no limit on how many delegates could cast votes, which were weighted according to the number of delegate votes allocated to each locality. Delegates cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting to determine a majority-vote winner. Over 53,000 people registered as delegates in 2021.

Miyares was announced as the winner of the attorney general convention on May 9, after three rounds of ranked-choice vote re-allocation. The final, weighted count showed Miyares with 51.7% of the vote to Smith’s 48.3%.

Miyares has served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016. His campaign platform included reducing the rate at which the Virginia Parole Board granted early release to violent offenders and punishing manufacturers and marketers who he said played a role in the opioid addiction epidemic.

The general election for Virginia attorney general will take place on November 2, 2021. The Democratic nominee will be decided in a primary on June 8. As of May 10, votes were still being counted for the Republican nominations for governor and lieutenant governor.

Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D) won re-election in 2017 with 53.4% of the vote to John Adams’ (R) 46.6%. The last Republican attorney general in Virginia was Ken Cuccinelli, who served from 2010 to 2014. Cuccinelli’s election in 2009, along with that year’s election of former Governor Bob McDonnell (R), was the last time a Republican candidate won statewide office in Virginia.