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Virginia voters go to the polls to nominate Rep. Comstock challenger, GOP Senate hopeful

Virginia voters go to the polls to nominate Rep. Comstock challenger, GOP Senate hopeful

Debbie Rieger heads to the voting booth to cast her ballot at Hillsboro Old Stone School on Nov. 7 in Purcellville, Va. (Katherine Frey/The W…

Virginia voters go to the polls to nominate Rep. Comstock challenger, GOP Senate hopeful

Debbie Rieger heads to the voting booth to cast her ballot at Hillsboro Old Stone School on Nov. 7 in Purcellville, Va. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) June 12 at 3:45 PM Email the author

From Fairfax to the Richmond suburbs, Virginia voters are casting ballots Tuesday to choose candidates to run in November elections that could help decide which party controls the U.S. House next year.

Democrats hope voter dissatisfaction with President Trump in a state that has been trending blue will help them flip several seats held by Republicans in November. The GOP, meanwhile, which has not won a statewide contest since 2009, is hoping to hold onto Republican congressional seats that could be in play for the first time in years.

[Virginia primary election results: Senate and House races]

“I feel stronger now than I have in a long time, in terms of trying to counter what this administration has done,” said Paul Bouey, a 64-year-old public health adviser from McLean who voted in the Democratic primary.

Bouey cast a ballot in the most heated race of the day: a six-way Democratic primary to choose a challenger to Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in Northern Virginia’s 10th District.

Like many other Democratic voters Tuesday, he said he voted for state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun) because he believed she had the best chance of winning in the suburban swing district this fall.

“In the end, I think we need to win,” agreed Jay Sebastian, a 56-year-old systems engineer who voted for Wexton. “I strictly based my decision on who I thought would be the strongest candidate against Comstock.”

Although demo graphic shifts and animosity toward Trump helped Hillary Clinton win the district by 10 points in 2016, Comstock’s relentless focus on local issues helped her stay afloat that year and beat her Democratic challenger by nearly six points.

“I think she’s a woman of integrity and that she understands what it is to be a representative and she knows her constituents,” said Denise Balzano, a 71-year-old retiree from McLean who voted for Comstock.

This year could prove the biggest challenge of Comstock’s political career.

Wexton is the presumed Democratic front-runner and has the support of Gov. Ralph Northam and a cluster of other elected Democrats. But in a crowded field with no independent polling, there are no guarantees.

Her top rivals include Army veteran Dan Helmer, who has attracted attention with provocative videos, including one in which he purchased a rifle at a gun show without a background check in a matter of minutes.

A nti-human-trafficking activist Alison Friedman raised the most money and, with Helmer, attacked Wexton, while former Obama administration official Lindsey Davis Stover focused on western parts of the district. Former federal prosecutor Paul Pelletier and scientist Julia Biggins have run on their professional accomplishments.

Jeanine Callahan, a 59-year-old consultant from Oakhill, voted for Friedman because of her experience in world affairs as well as her focus on gun control, which became a major issue in the Democratic primary.

“I thought it was a good balance between domestic concerns and international concerns,” Callahan said.

Helmer was out greeting voters Tuesday morning in Herndon, where he had already won over Jeff Smith, a 51-year-old government consultant.

“I think his credibility as a West Point grad and an Oxford grad will get more of those moderate people that go the Comstock way over to the right way,” Smith said.

Linda Crume, a 70-year-old retired federal worker from Herndon decided to vote for Helmer after speaking to him at her Fox Mill Elementary school polling place.

She appreciated that Helmer was a Rhodes scholar and a veteran, and believes he’s well positioned to challenge Comstock and Trump. “Somebody needs to take a stand in Congress,” she said, calling Trump “a disgrace to our country.”

Comstock is heavily favored to win the Republican primary against challenger Shak Hill, a perennial candidate who is running to her right. Hill, a retired Air Force pilot, has never won a primary but could harness far-right voters upset by instances in which Comstock has spoken out against Trump.

Vonda Brown is one of those voters. A retired electrical engineer from Oakhill, she voted for Hill because Comstock has selectively distanced herself from Trump in the past. “But now all of a sudden, she’s jumping on the bandwagon because he’s doing great things,” Brown s aid.

Sharon Wright, 73, of Leesburg, also came to the polls Tuesday to support Hill. A lifelong Republican, Wright met Hill at a recent rally with former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, and she said Hill struck her as a “family man” who would best represent her conservative values.

She thinks Comstock “is afraid to say what she really believes” because she is worried about offending moderate voters in the sprawling district.

Wright, whose traveled around the world with her husband, who was in the CIA for 25 years, said she is worried about immigration and excited by the prospect of Trump’s wall.

“I know Shak couldn’t help with that exactly, but he shares the same ideas,” said Wright.

Turnout in Fairfax County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction, was light through mid-day.

Tuesday is busy day in the Washington region, with an 11 a.m. Capitals’ Stanley Cup parade that drew tens of thousands of hocky fans and reveler s to the National Mall.

At Langley High School, 210 voters cast ballots as of 11:15 a.m. Amanda Bridges, who oversees the polls there, called the turnout “sad” but expected because of the Capitals parade and end-of-year school activities that had been scheduled in the area. She expected bigger crowds at lunch and after work.

Early absentee-voting numbers suggest the Republican Senate primary is attracting less enthusiasm than last year’s primary for governor. The number of voters who have already cast absentee ballots is down about 10 percent compared with the same point in 2017, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

Republicans must choose among three candidates â€" Corey A. Stewart, Nick Freitas and E.W. Jackson â€" vying for the chance to run an uphill battle against Sen. Tim Kaine (D) as he seeks a second term.

[Four questions for six Democrats vying to challenge Rep. Barbara Comstock]

The frontrunner is Stewart, the bombastic chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors who has promised to crackdown on illegal immigration and promote gun rights. Freitas is a little-known state legislator from Culpeper and former Green Beret who won national notice for giving a recent speech in the House of Delegates that seemed to blame school shootings on “the abortion industry.” And Jackson is a Harvard law school graduate and minister from Chesapeake who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2012 and then ran a failing bid as the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013.

Stewart gained a statewide following after nearly toppling Ed Gillespie in last year’s gubernatorial primary, and notoriety after associating with white supremacists.

“I liked his values keeping the United States the way it should be, keeping it strong, being a supporter of Trump,” said Brown, the retired electrical engineer from Oakhill, who voted for Stewart.

Christen MacMillan, a 49-year-old Ashburn resident, voted for Stewart because she likes his “no nonsense” attitude, which she said reminds her of Trump and is a departure from typical politics.

MacMillan, who works for a health care consulting firm, said she’s heard positive things about what the provocative Republican has done in Prince William County and thinks he, like Trump, would be effective.

“I’m a conservative, and I believe in minimal government... I want to cut spending and focus on immigration,” said MacMillan, who added that she didn’t original support Trump but has come to like him.

Balzano, the 71-year-old retiree from McLean, voted for Freitas, largely because of his libertarian streak.

“I think his focus on understanding that people need to have choices and freedom of choice â€" the choice to live our lives how we want â€" is critical,” she said. The fact that Freitas was a Green Beret also influenced her vote, she said. “Service to our country and the public are very important to me,” she said.

No matter who wraps up the GOP nomination, Kaine is heavily favored to win. Virginia was the only Southern state that Trump lost in 2016, and he remains deeply unpopular there. His election inspired the formation of liberal activist groups around the state, including the particularly effective Liberal Women of Chesterfield County, who have helped put Brat’s district in play this year.

Two Democrats, former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger and retired Marine combat pilot and commercial pilot Dan Ward are facing off for the nomination to run against Brat in a district independent analysts say “leans Republican.”

Rep. Scott W. Taylor, a Republican in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District, is facing a primary challenge from former James City Council chair Mary Jones, who says Taylor has not been loyal to Trump. Meanwhile, former Navy commander Elaine Luria is favored to win the Democratic primary against teacher Karen Mallard.

Emily’s List, which works to elect women candidate who favor abortion rights, endorsed Spanberger, Luria and Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat running in central Virginia.

Cockburn is already on the ballot and will face Denver Riggleman, whom the GOP nominated to replace Rep. Thomas Garrett (R) after he recently revealed he is an alcoholic and dropped out of the race.

Multiple Democrats are also seeking their nomination in reliably red districts represented by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Morgan H. Griffith and Rob Wittman. Goodlatte is not seeking reelection, but his former chief of staff, Del. Ben Cline, is running to succeed him.

There are also a handful of local races.

Alexandria voters will elect a new Democratic nominee for mayor, choosing between incumbent Allison Silberberg and challenger Justin Wilson, as well as nominees for City Council. The Democratic nominees will be the overwhelming favorites in November. In Arlington County, v oters will choose between two Democrats to run against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt (I).

Polls close at 7 p.m.

Rachel Chason, Justine Coleman, Miela Fetaw, Casey Smith and Amy Zahn contributed to this report.

Source: Google News | Netizen 24 United States

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