Virginia Incumbents Facing Primary Challengers From Their Own Parties

Mar 29, 2019

The deadline for new candidates running in primaries for the General Election was this week.

Seven incumbent Senators are facing primary challenges, and seven incumbent House members are also facing opposition from inside their own parties. Most of those are Democrats.

“There’s clearly a movement further to the left,” says Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington.

“As the new generation of politicians emerge, they are looking at a more liberal view of the Democratic Party than some of the more establishment Democrats who have been in Richmond for a while.”

Senator Dick Saslaw and Senator Lynwood Lewis are both facing opposition from the liberal wing of their party, for example.

Credit NPR

But, Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says a similar situation is happening on the right.

“Just like moderate Republicans like Emmett Hanger, if he survives his challenge, will get pushed to the right," he says. "So ultimately we’ll see the effects of these challenges in the General Assembly session.”

Incumbents usually have the power to raise more money, and they rarely lose. But this upcoming primary season could end up being a test for both parties: Do voters think they’re liberal enough or conservative enough? Or are voters willing to send moderate incumbents into a general election campaign this fall?

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