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With Close of Democratic Primary, 'Eyes of the Country Are Going to Be on Virginia Voters'

The June 11 primary is the start of what is likely to be a high-profile, ugly Virginia governor's race with plenty of outside money and attention.

Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is running unopposed for the nod in Virginia’s 2013 Democratic Primary Election on Tuesday.

But with four Democratic candidates still competing for a spot on his ticket — and GOP opponents already attracting national attention on controversial issues — be prepared for a general election heavy with advertising, national political stars and big bucks from party donors on both sides.

The outcome of the general election -- which unofficially begins when the last Tuesday primary vote is counted -- could tip the country's political balance, as well as the evenly-split Virginia senate. One thing is certain: the 2013 race will be watched inside, and outside, Virginia.

“The eyes of the country are going to be on Virginia voters,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s good news for people who want to be paying attention to politics, but it’s probably bad news in terms of the number of campaign ads that state residents are going to sit through. These are both candidates who have been very aggressive very early in terms of the attacks.”

Virginia voters can expect to see a lot more of that, he said.

The state's gubernatorial elections have always been closely watched because of their odd-year timing immediately after a presidential election.

This year, both McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, are savvy fundraisers and national names.

  • See: Virginia Governor's Race: McAuliffe Continues to Outraise Cuccinelli

“In many ways, you can look at these races as something approaching a leading political indicator of the mood of the country,” Farnsworth told Patch. “It’s an approximation of what might happen in the midterm elections, as well as the popularity of the incumbent president the year after the election.”

Plus, the governor’s race in New Jersey is likely to be a one-sided affair, leaving more party dollars for the Virginia race, Farnsworth said.

“Virginia governor races always get a lot of out-of-state money,” he said. “Whatever money is floating around in politics in this country is likely to find its way to Virginia between now and November.”

The lieutenant governor and attorney general candidates are also drawing attention in 2013.

Typically, Virginia Democrats select experienced candidates who they think will be the most electable.

But the Republicans’ choice of Chesapeake pastor E.W. Jackson as Cuccinelli’s running mate could give Democrats some leeway with their choice, Farnsworth said. Jackson has come under scrutiny for controversial remarks he made about gays and Planned Parenthood and only earned 5 percent of the vote in the 2012 Republican Primary won by George Allen for a U.S. Senate Seat. Allen went on to lose the seat to Time Kaine.

“The selection of E.W. Jackson has given democrats a lot more latitude,” Farnsworth said.

The attorney general candidate will have his work cut out for him as well.

A Democrat hasn’t been elected attorney general in 24 years, but past Republican attorneys general have had excellent opportunities to become national figures, like Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli after him.

“There is a huge importance that the attorney general plays in Virginia politics,” Farnsworth said.

The evenly split state senate, however, could play a bigger role in the primary than some people realize, Farnsworth said.

If elected, both state sens. Mark Herring and Ralph Northam would vacate their senate seats, triggering special elections that the right Republican candidate would be competitive in. The risk of losing the senate to the Republicans could sway some Democrats and ultimately benefit Justin Fairfax and Aneesh Chopra.

“For some Democrats, the risk of losing a 20-20 senate is a risk they would not be interested in taking,” Farnsworth said.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know for the election:

Lieutenant Governor

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) will face off against Aneesh Chopra, the first U.S. chief technology officer under President Barack Obama.

Although Chopra lacks Northam’s veteran experience in public office, he has more financial support behind him, soundly beating Northam in the most recent fundraising period.

The victor in Tuesday’s primary will share a ticket with Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic Party and Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Attorney General

State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) is going up against Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor who worked to fight drug and human trafficking in Alexandria.

Like Northam, Herring has experience as an advantage in the race, but Fairfax’s history as a prosecutor has won him looks from big players, including a Washington Post endorsement.

Where Do I Vote?

You can look up your polling place by address.

Kim McCoy June 11, 2013 at 02:45 PM
2009?....are you kidding me? Have you followed this disaster since 2009?...The "review boards" ARE the death panels.....WAKE UP and research the truth on this issue. I'm sure you think the spying on private citizens and collecting ALL of our data without probable cause is fine too, right?...What happens when YOU receive a call from a "wrong number" and suddenly you are on the NSA's watch list?....nevermind, just stay asleep and let the rest of us will fight for your right to blissful ignorance.
Kim McCoy June 11, 2013 at 02:53 PM
You people and your "Party" affiliations.....to be a "loyal Democrat" or a "loyal Republican" means you can never be a STATESMAN. You are so mired in your partisanship that you can't see the forest for the party trees.
oldtowner June 11, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Pardon me, Barbara.....but I have heard to the contrary on Northam's "switch"....he naturally would now deny it.....
Bob Bruhns June 11, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Mostly, I want officials elected who will not simply give away the store. Seems like the ones we have now will just look for more ways to borrow, instead of fighting excessive prices - and that's when they aren't just whistling and looking the other way altogether.
William House June 12, 2013 at 12:53 AM
In the Primaries I do not see a need to vote for Republican Lite. That loses Progressive Support in the General. We should vote for who we want at some point, the Primaries are the best place to move Democrats Forward. The Green Party should disband into a Political PAC, they could take over the Democratic Party rather than wasting efforts in division in the General Election.

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