May 8, 2023 - Politics

General Assembly primary season begins

Animated illustration of a finger pushing a "VOTE" button from the left of the screen towards the center

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Early voting has already begun in a slew of hotly contested General Assembly primaries this year.

Why it matters: With all new legislative districts in place, no incumbent is safe.

By the numbers: 14 sitting state lawmakers face primary challenges.

  • And, in two districts, it's incumbent vs. incumbent.

Here are some of the races we're keeping an eye on.

Morrissey vs. Aird: This Petersburg-centered Senate race is already drawing outsized attention for its potential implications on the abortion debate.

  • Former Democratic Del. Lashrecse Aird is a progressive challenging Sen. Joe Morrissey, an anti-abortion Democrat. Aird has so far matched Morrissey in fundraising and has the backing of virtually every pro-abortion rights group in the state.
  • The race comes as Morrissey's personal life has fallen under renewed scrutiny after a legal battle with his estranged wife.
  • It's led to some awkward interactions with voters, like this viral TikTok in which a Petersburg man stands next to a smiling Morrissey while slamming the candidate for his 2014 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Chase vs. everyone (basically): Sen. Amanda Chase, a Chesterfield Republican on the fringe of her party, is facing challenges from party activist Tina Ramirez and former Sen. Glen Sturtevant.

  • Among the dynamics that make this race interesting: Sturtevant, who once served on the city school board and was elected to the Senate as a moderate, has tacked hard to the right now that he's campaigning in a more conservative district.

Spruill vs. Lucas: This is one of the two aforementioned races pitting two incumbents —Democratic Sens. Louise Lucas and Lionel Spruill — against each other after they were drawn into the same district.

  • In most other pairings, someone either moved or retired. In this case, neither blinked.
  • Privately, some lawmakers blame Lucas for not moving into an open district that had more overlap with her own.
  • Publicly, things are getting testy. Lucas recently lashed out at her Democratic colleagues in the Senate for attending a fundraiser with Spruill, arguing they were trying to prevent the re-election of a Black woman in line to chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee. (Spruill is also Black, but not as senior.)

👀 Also interesting:

Sen. Creigh Deeds, one of the last moderate rural Democrats standing, is facing a challenge from Charlottesville Del. Sally Hudson, a staunch progressive

Henrico Del. Delores McQuinn is being challenged by a political newcomer Terrence Lavell Walker, who so far has outraised her by nearly $100,000, per VPAP.

Newly minted Sen. Lamont Bagby faces a challenge from Katie Gooch, a local pastor, in a race that tests the limits of what incumbency even means. (Bagby has so far just served just one day in the Senate representing a district that doesn't share the same name or boundaries as the map now in play.)

And in Southwest, the final incumbent vs. incumbent matchup is playing out between two Trump-boosting GOP incumbents in a messy race that one commentator described as "like two apex predators both trying to occupy the same ecological niche: King Kong vs. Godzilla."


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