Primary results reflect political trends, analyst says

Published: Jun. 12, 2019 at 7:15 PM EDT
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Tuesday's General Assembly primaries included some surprises, and perhaps a hint of what's to come in the November elections.

On Wednesday morning, what many who follow Virginia politics were talking about was the latest comeback by Fightin' Joe Morrisey.

Morrissey celebrated his primary victory over Rosalyn Dance, an incumbent senator from Petersburg who had the support of the Democratic establishment.

It represented an improbable comeback for a former delegate who spent time in jail after pleading guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor - the 17 year old receptionist who is now his wife.

A bigger surprise might be the narrow victory of Democratic Senator Dick Saslaw, a 40-year incumbent in northern Virginia who won his primary by fewer than 500 votes.

"Certainly the closeness of that race is very much a surprise," said Virginia Tech Professor and WDBJ7 Political Analyst Bob Denton. "And I do think that it shows a trend."

Denton said the results from a number of Tuesday's primaries show the Democratic Party continues to become more progressive.

"The candidates who prevailed by and large among the Democrats yesterday are certainly younger, certainly more progressive, certainly have a very active agenda. And there's no question they're more progressive than in the past," Denton said. "The question for voters in November is do you want to vote for someone coming from the moderate who might be a little more open to compromise, or do you really want to reflect what's going on nationally certainly with the Democrats being much more to the left and progressive. That's going to be the choice in November."

Denton said with new districts and Virginia's changing demographics, Democrats will still have the advantage in November, but he believes Republicans can be competitive in many of the races.

Denton said another wild card is the special session that Governor Northam called to take up gun control. How that plays out next month could also have a major impact on the General Assembly elections in November.

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