Webb easily defeated three opponents and will face Bob Good, a self-described “biblical” conservative, in the November general election to represent Virginia’s 5th congressional district. Democrats became energized about their chances after GOP voters chose Good over incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in a nominating convention earlier this month.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report changed the race from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican” after Good won the GOP nomination.
David Wasserman, an expert on House races at the Cook report, called Webb’s huge margin of victory “astounding” and said it marked a “sea change in what Democratic voters are looking for.” Webb had more than three times the votes of his nearest opponent with nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns.
“It takes a perfect storm for Democrats to win VA5 but a storm may be brewing,” Wasserman said. “To win this Democrats need a massive margin in Charlottesville, high black turnout in Southside and a weak and controversial Republican opponent and right now they may be firing on all three cylinders.”
His biography seems tailor made for the moment, Wasserman said.
Other key races Tuesday included a GOP primary to decide who will challenge Rep. Elaine Luria (D) in the 2nd District, which was won by former congressman Scott Taylor, who held the seat from 2017 to 2019.
The Cook report considers the general election a toss-up.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) moved the date of the primary from June 9 to June 23 and encouraged voters to cast absentee ballots, in hopes of reducing the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus at polling places.
Counties and cities will count absentee ballots received by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Several voters from both parties who voted in person said this year’s election was important enough to take the public health risk.
At Warrenton Community Center, voters had to stop at a table before the official check-in point to use hand sanitizer. After voters filled out their ballots in one of the five booths, they could collect an “I Voted Sticker” from a volunteer who sat with a face shield behind scratched plexiglass.
In Manassas, Amanda Duffy, 33, a seventh-grade teacher, said she wanted to practice what she preached.
“I teach my kids: every election matters, every voice matters, every vote matters,” she said. “So if I’m not doing that, it’s a little bit hypocritical of me to expect that my students feel like their voices matter.”
Here is a rundown of the closely watched races:
Republican Senate primary
Gade, who was declared the winner by the Associated Press shortly before 7:30 p.m., worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, is a professor at American University, and far outraised his competition during the campaign.
Baldwin, a civics and economics teacher in Nottoway County Public Schools, is a member of the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, another gun rights group, and a former emergency medical technician.
Speciale, who lives in Woodbridge, is an Army reservist and Cub Scouts master who owns a firearms training company and says on his website that he wants to “fight against the Socialist agenda to take away our rights to protect ourselves and protect our children.”
At the polls in Manassas, Beverly King, 68, said she voted for Gade to bring a fresh perspective to the Senate. She said she was slightly worried about potential exposure to the coronavirus, but not enough to stay home.
“The world’s changing,” she said. “You have to vote.”
Warner is seeking a third term on the strength of his reputation as a bipartisan centrist and popular former Virginia governor who has investigated Russian interference in U.S. elections as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Virginia has not elected a Republican in a statewide contest in more than a decade.
Although he nearly lost his 2014 reelection bid to Republican Ed Gillespie, Kidd said Warner will be heavily favored in the general election in Virginia, which has not elected a Republican statewide in more than a decade.
“The winds are at his back if you will,” said Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University. “A Republican is in the White House having to defend himself against headwinds he’s facing. Virginia structurally is a really tough to be a Republican this year.”
There were not reports of widespread lines statewide, but some voters in Virginia Beach had to vote by provisional ballot when it became clear electronic poll books were programmed incorrectly. The national parties were closely watching the three-way Republican primary to nominate a challenger to Luria in that swing district.
Taylor is a former Navy SEAL, a native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and a former state lawmaker who lost the congressional seat to Luria in the 2018 blue wave.
Analysts say he was impacted by an increase in anti-Trump sentiment and a scandal over fraudulent signatures that his campaign collected to help a potential spoiler candidate get on the ballot.
On Tuesday, he defeated Jarome Bell, a retired naval chief petty officer who runs a business helping high school athletes secure college scholarships, and Ben Loyola Jr., a retired Navy captain and defense contractor whose family fled communist Cuba when he was 2 years old.
The four-way Democratic primary in an expansive central and Southside Virginia district garnered national attention this month when GOP voters nominated Good over Riggleman, who had angered religious conservatives by presiding over the same-sex wedding of two former campaign aides.
Democrats believe they have a shot at winning the newly open seat for the first time since Tom Perriello won a single term in 2008, before the tea party ousted him in part for voting for the Affordable Care Act.
Webb, 37, defeated R.D. Huffstetler, a Marine veteran and former congressional chief of staff with Silicon Valley experience; John Lesinski, a retired Marine Corps colonel and former elected official in Rappahannock County who works in commercial real estate; and Claire Russo, a former Marine intelligence officer and advocate for victims of military sexual assault who had been endorsed by Emily’s List.
In rural Warrenton, Bryce Burrell, 21, said he felt unsettled by Good’s nomination, at a time when he was already reckoning with his place as a black man in the fight for racial justice. He voted for Webb, who like him is African American, and said he liked the Democrat’s plans for health care and policing issues “how he deals with the African American community in rural areas.”
“I feel like this country is leaning more right, more toward a facist state,” said Burrell, who will soon begin a Masters in Fine Arts at Virginia Tech. “I think all the time about how we need to start leaning the pendulum left and pushing the ballot left.”
Cheryl Crow, 63, cast her ballot for Russo. “We just need more women in Congress,” she said “And I like her stance on guns.”
Her husband, Richard Crow, 67, voted for Webb for his “deep knowledge as a lawyer and a doctor” and “frankly, his good public face.” But he tread carefully when discussing gender with his wife of 36 years.
“I don’t want to be that old white guy,” he said, embracing Cheryl Crow.
Portia Bagley, 49, said she voted for Huffstetler. “I believe if we had more people in Congress who actually served the country, they would understand the importance of serving country over party,” said Bagley, who a former communications specialist in the Army.
Local races in play
There were also a handful of local races down-ballot, including in Manassas, where Democrats chose between four candidates for three City Council nominations.
At Weems Elementary School, election workers wearing gloves and face shields over their masks catered to a steady trickle of voters, but not enough to utilize red and blue strips of tape placed on the floor for social distancing.
Community activist Helen Zurita, who was vying for one of the city council nominations, greeted voters without wearing a mask.
Nearby, Manassas Vice Mayor Pam Sebesky and her supporters passed out sample ballots that listed her name along with incumbent Councilman Mark Wolfe and Tom Osina, the director of the Georgetown South Community Center.
“Thank you for coming out!” Sebesky said to a voter through her cloth mask.
All three incumbents won.
Coronavirus social distancing forced candidates to forego the usual door knocking, prompting Sandra Green, 53, to worry that not enough voters knew about the primary. Her mailbox wasn’t flooded with the usual campaign literature either, she said.
“Usually I get people calling me, knocking on my door,” said Green, a Democrat who learned about the election on social media. “This year I got nothing.”
She said she chose Sebesky, Wolfe and Osina, mainly because she saw a campaign sign with their names on it as she walked into the polling station.
Other congressional races
The other congressional primaries have drawn less attention. In Virginia’s solidly red 1st District, two Democrats — human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid and Vangie Williams, a strategic planner who was the party’s 2018 nominee — were in a close contest, vying for the chance to challenge Rep. Rob Wittman (R).
Marine veteran John Collick won the GOP nomination in the 3rd District to challenge Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D), the longest-serving member of the Virginia congressional delegation and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Collick defeated Madison Downs, a teacher and community developer; and George Yacus, a former Navy pilot and consultant for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Scott will be heavily favored in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic.
In the 4th District Democratic primary, Rep. Donald A. McEachin (D), an attorney and former state senator first elected to Congress in 2016, easily beat technology consultant Cazel Levine, AP reported.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has served in Congress since 2009, beat 11th District challenger Zainab Mohsini, a community activist. Before being elected to Congress, Connolly chaired the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Connolly, McEachin and Scott will all be heavily favored in November.
Davies reported from Warrenton.