More Democrats than Republicans Face Primary Challenges in 2019

Mar 1, 2019

When 23 Republicans crossed party lines last year and voted in favor of expanding Medicaid, many conservatives were warning of a wave of primary opposition this year.

But Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says that hasn’t happened. “There was such a hard-fought battle within the Republican Party, for example, over whether to sign up for Medicaid expansion. But among those Republicans who did work with the Democrats on Medicaid expansion, few of them are facing primary challengers right now,” Farnsworth notes.

Only three, to be exact. So far, most of the primary challengers have been on Democratic side. Four incumbent Democratic senators are facing primary challengers this year, and four incumbent Democratic delegates.

Jeremy Mayer, a political analyst at George Mason University, says he sees parallels with the Tea Party challengers to Republican incumbents a decade ago.  “It’s good news for Democrats in that they have a lot of excitement," Mayer says.  "But if you knock off safe incumbents with primary challengers who are less likely to win that’s not a net win for your party when you are counting up seats in Richmond.”

More primary opponents could still emerge. The deadline for filing paperwork is the end of this month.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.