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Republicans will pick candidate to face Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in November
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Virginia Democrats will pick nominees for four targeted Republican-held U.S. House seats in Tuesday’s primary election, including a race in the Washington, D.C. suburbs where a large gaggle of Democrats have already raised $6.5 million to try to unseat U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock.
Republicans will decide on a nominee for an uphill battle to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, with Corey Stewart, the controversial chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, leading the pack.
Polls are open across the commonwealth Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In U.S. House contests, Democrats are making a play for four Republican-held seats in Virginia in their quest to gain the 24 seats they need nationally to capture control.
Targets include the 2nd District in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads; the 5th District, which includes Charlottesville and much of central Virginia; the 7th District, which takes in Richmond’s eastern suburbs and areas to the north; and the 10th District, which stretches from the western Washington suburbs toward West Virginia.
The most money and attention have been lavished on the 10th District, where Comstock is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 10 points in 2016.
Six Democrats are running and, because Virginia does not have primary runoffs, whichever candidate can cobble together the most votes Tuesday will win the nomination.
The most recent Federal Elections Commission filings show three Democrats — State Senator Jennifer Wexton, Alison Friedman, and Dan Helmer — have raised more than $1 million, while a fourth, Lindsey Davis Stover, has approached the $1 million mark.
Wexton, from Leesburg, has gotten endorsements from Governor Ralph Northam and other elected Democrats. Both Friedman and Stover served in the Obama administration. Helmer, from Fairfax, is a business strategist and former Army officer.
In all, the six Democrats have raised nearly $6.5 million for the 10th District race, a testament to Democratic enthusiasm in the wake of the party’s strong showing in state elections last year.
However, Comstock — who has turned back stiff Democratic challenges in the last three election cycles — still has far and away the biggest fundraising haul at $3.3 million.
Comstock also has a Republican challenger, Shak Hill, a primary that turned contentious in the closing days. Hill has attacked Comstock as insufficiently conservative, branding her “Beltway Barbara;” Comstock has questioned Hill’s personal history, calling him “Shady Shak.”
In the 2nd District, two Democrats are running to face freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, in a district Trump carried by just 3 points in 2016: Elaine Luria, a businesswoman and former Navy officer, and Karen Mallard, a public school teacher.
Taylor also faces a GOP primary challenge from Mary Jones, a former county supervisor in James City County, who has wrapped herself in the Trump mantle and criticized Taylor for not being conservative enough.
In the 7th District, Democrats Abigail Spanberger and Daniel Ward are vying for the right to take on U.S. Rep. Dave Brat in November. Spanberger, from Glen Allen, is a retired CIA operative; Ward, from Orange, is an airline pilot and former Marine Corps officer who worked as a State Department aide during the Obama administration.
Both Democrats have each raised more than $900,000 for the race, nearly catching Brat, who is best known nationally for knocking off former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary. Trump carried the district by 7 points.
The one Democrat-targeted seat where there won’t be any suspense on primary night is the 5th District, where Democrat Leslie Cockburn won the nomination at a Democratic convention and Republican party leaders picked Denver Riggleman to run when the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, pulled out in May after disclosing his alcoholism.
Cockburn, from Rappahannock County, is a former network television producer and correspondent who has raised $715,000 for the race. Riggleman, who owns a distillery near Charlottesville and made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2017, will start the race in a significant financial hole.
In the Republican U.S. Senate race, Stewart is facing off against State Delegate Nick Freitas from Culpeper and E.W. Jackson, an African-American Baptist pastor and social conservative activist who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013.
Stewart nearly won the GOP nomination for governor in 2017 after a campaign in which the Minnesota native championed the preservation of Confederate monuments. In announcing his Senate bid, Stewart vowed to “run the most vicious, ruthless campaign” against Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president.
Freitas has criticized Stewart for making an appearance alongside one of the organizers of last-year’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, calling on voters to reject Stewart’s “dog-whistling of white supremacists, anti-Semites and racists.”
Stewart responded by calling Freitas an “establishment Republican” using “leftist tactics of CNN.”
Polls have shown Kaine with a substantial lead over all three of his potential GOP challengers. Republicans haven’t won a Senate election in the Old Dominion since 2008.