Primary Recap and Election Preview
Legislative Update - July 2023

Article Matt Bruning

There is more certainty ahead for what the legislature might look like in January, since the deadline for candidates to file to run for the 140 Virginia General Assembly seats was June 20. There were 25 contested nominations for Senate seats and 31 for House of Delegates districts. Most were decided by the state-run primary process last month, which yielded some interesting results.

With district boundaries altered after the last redistricting process, there were several open seats without incumbents – dozens of sitting legislators chose not to seek re-election – as well as a significant number of intra-party contests between current legislators. In one case, two long-serving Democratic senators went head-to-head, with Senator L. Louise Lucas defeating Senator Lionell Spruill in a Portsmouth/Chesapeake showdown. Including Spruill, there were five incumbent senators bested by challengers. Two of the most controversial elected officials, Richmond area Senators Joe Morrissey (D) and Amanda Chase ®, lost to former legislators in former-Delegate Lashrecse Aird and former Senator Glen Sturtevant. In Fairfax, Senators George Barker and Chap Petersen were ousted after seeing large swaths of their previous districts shifted. At the same time, veteran Senators Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville), Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax) and Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William) successfully weathered aggressive and well-funded campaigns against them, albeit only by 60 votes in the case of McPike. With the losses, the Senate will have at least 16 new members in January out of the 40-member chamber. House members largely avoided contentious primaries with the notable exception of two conservative first-term Republicans duking it out in a Carroll County-based seat where Delegate Wren Williams bested Delegate Marie March.

Overall, of the 31 Democratic legislative primaries, only three were won by white males, with the rest secured by women and/or people of color. While the victorious challengers to the Democratic senators hailed from the more progressive wing of their party, contested primaries for key open seats on the Republican side saw those considered “more established” candidates come out on top in places like Suffolk, Stafford and Prince William. Democratic voters followed suit for open-seat Senate nominees in Stafford and Loudoun.

In each case mentioned, the outcome of the primary almost certainly guaranteed the winner will emerge victorious again from the November 7th general election. Despite the efforts of the map drawers to promote greater electoral competition, about 90% of this fall’s General Assembly seats are generally a foregone conclusion now that a candidate has secured their party’s nomination based on the historical election outcomes in those districts. With narrow margins in both chambers, only a handful of contested races will determine partisan control. In the Senate, races in seats based in Henrico, Newport News, Suffolk, Stafford and Loudoun are likely to be the keys to getting to a majority for either side.  Outcomes in Virginia Beach, Petersburg, western Henrico, western Prince William and Stafford will be the ones to watch for whether Republicans maintain their hold in the House or if Democrats can wrest it away.

VBA staff has already begun meeting with candidates to introduce them to the issues and policies important to banking. VBA BankPAC will continue to support incumbents and candidates who recognize the positive impact banks make on consumers and communities. While there will be additional new faces heading to Richmond after November 7th, the VBA will remain the one unified voice for the industry, educating elected officials on the many policies that affect banks’ ability to thrive.