What to watch for, Virginia primaries edition
From the North Carolina border to the suburbs of Washington, Virginians are voting today. Republican ones, anyway. As our colleagues at The Fix would say, here's what to watch for in the commonwealth:
1) The Basics. Of Virginia's 11 congressional districts, six have already picked their Republican nominees. The other five will be determined by today's primaries. (Democrats have picked all their nominees already.) Here's a list of how each district chooses their nominees. Here are all the candidates running in today's five Republican primaries.
Self-plugs: Here's today's Washington Post setup story, focused on the 11th district, plus a graphic laying out all the races. Here's Sunday's story, focused on the Hampton Roads-based 2nd district, and here's an archive of this blog's coverage of congressional races this cycle.
2) Margins in the 2nd and 5th. There are two particularly crowded primaries on the ballot today -- the race to face Rep. Glenn Nye (D) in the 2nd district, and the contest to take on Rep. Tom Perriello (D) in the 5th district. In each race, the GOP establishment favorite -- Scott Rigell in the 2nd and Robert Hurt in the 5th -- has faced a backlash from tea party groups and conservative activists. Rigell and Hurt are expected to win today anyway, but by how much?
Jeff Clark is threatening to mount an Independent bid if Hurt wins in the 5th, while Kenny Golden is running as an Independent the 2nd. If Rigell and Hurt win today by wide margins, Clark and Golden will have less room to run and the "Republicans in disarray" storyline will be minimized. But if the contests are close, expect national GOP officials to worry that their candidates in two of the nation's most important races have been wounded.
3) Turnout in the 11th. There are no other contests on the ballot today other than congressional primaries, so there are no big-ticket races to lure anyone but the most committed voters to the polls. How low will turnout go, especially in Northern Virginia's 11th district? Both Oakton businessman Keith Fimian and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity expect turnout to be in the neighborhood of 5 percent. Low turnout could favor Fimian, who has positioned himself as the more conservative candidate. Herrity needs a strong showing in the Springfield area, which he represents on the Board of Supervisors. And whichever candidate wins the GOP nod against him, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) will be watching the overall turnout numbers to see just how motivated and engaged Republicans in the district are.
4) Crabill in the 1st. Of Virginia's five Republican incumbents, only Rep. Rob Wittman faces a primary challenge. His opponent: Catherine Crabill, who has some support from local tea party groups and says she is running because "we are in a two-fisted-bare-knuckled-knock-down-drag-out contest for the restoration and preservation of our nation." Crabill earned some notoriety in 2009 during a failed bid for the Virginia House of Delegates, when she said: "We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box, before we have to resort to the bullet box." (Update 11:22 am: Crabill appears to have called recently for members of Congress who don't uphold the constitution to be "tried, convicted and executed" for treason, according to multiple reports. We've asked Crabill for comment and will update if she responds.)
There's no reason to think Wittman is in any danger of losing today. But watch the returns in the 1st anyway, just to see how many votes she gets. If Crabill -- who has raised almost no campaign money -- can make a decent showing against a well-funded lawmaker with a reliably conservative voting record, it will be yet another sign of the strong anti-incumbent sentiment coursing through the 2010 electorate, in Virginia and across the country.
5) Berry in the 8th. Rep. James P. Moran (D) should be reelected in his suburban Washington district in November, barring a surprise or scandal (neither of which is out of the question, given his colorful history). Lawyer Matthew Berry and retired Army Col. Patrick Murray are running for the Republican nomination, and Berry appears to have the most endorsements, momentum and money. Though he might be a longshot in the general election, Berry is worth watching for at least one reason -- he is openly gay, and there has not been an openly gay Republican member of Congress since Rep. Jim Kolbe (Ariz.) retired in 2006.
June 8, 2010; 9:20 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010
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