Primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties will be held on June 12, 2018. Off on a Tangent is making recommendations to party primary voters in each contested state- and federal-level primary race in Virginia.

Political parties are private organizations that should not have any official standing in our political system, but Democratic and Republican primaries are held by the Virginia Department of Elections and are funded by Virginia taxpayers. The purpose of a party primary should be for members of that party to choose who will represent them on the general election ballot. Virginia, however, has an absurd “open primary” system where any registered voter may vote in any one (but not more than one) each year.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties are making some of their nominations at party conventions; this series of recommendations only applies to primaries and caucuses. The Libertarian Party, which currently qualifies as a major party under the Tangent style guide (section 10.70), nominates all of its candidates in party conventions and is not holding any primaries or caucuses.


Democratic Party Primaries

Democratic Party

Contested Democratic Party primary races are being held for six of Virginia’s eleven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representatives serve two-year terms and there are no term limits. Elections are held every two years. Currently, the Democratic Party holds four of Virginia’s House seats and the Republican Party holds seven.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 1st District

Virginia’s 1st District encompasses the far southern suburbs of Washington, DC, the Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula, and part of the Virginia Peninsula. It is currently represented by Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA 1st), who is seeking reelection and is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Three Democratic Party candidates are seeking the nomination to challenge Wittman in the general election: Edwin Santana Jr., John Suddarth, and Vangie Williams. All three are fairly doctrinaire Democrats, but Santana and Suddarth both walk in lockstep with an increasingly radical and irrational national party. Williams seems more humble, more willing to listen and compromise, and less antagonistic toward voters on the other side.

I recommend that the Democratic primary voters in the 1st District choose Vangie Williams.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 2nd District

Virginia’s 2nd District encompasses the Eastern Shore, Virginia Beach, and parts of Norfolk and the Virginia Peninsula. It is currently represented by Representative Scott Taylor (R-VA 2nd), who is seeking reelection in a contested Republican primary.

Two Democratic Party candidates are seeking the nomination to stand in the general election: Elaine Luria and Karen Mallard. On the issues, they are essentially indistinguishable from either the increasingly hard-left national party or from each other. I make no recommendation.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 6th District

Virginia’s 6th District encompasses much of the westernmost border area of the state, running up the Interstate 81 corridor through the Shenandoah Valley from Roanoke to Strasburg. It is currently represented by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6th), who is retiring at the end of his current term.

Four Democratic Party candidates are seeking the nomination to stand in the general election: Sergio Coppola, Jennifer Lewis, Charlotte Moore, and Peter Volosin. There is relatively little to differentiate them, with each offering a lot of the usual half-informed pablum that populates the modern Democratic Party platform. Antagonism toward individual rights and liberties is scattered throughout their position statements. Coppola, however, stands out with his earnest and honest (and perhaps naive) approach to politics. I especially appreciate his nuanced and mostly reasonable views on the right to keep and bear arms.

I recommend that the Democratic primary voters in the 6th District choose Sergio Coppola.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 7th District

Virginia’s 7th District encompasses an area of central Virginia running diagonally from Culpeper in the northwest nearly all the way to the Hampton Roads region. It also wraps around the western and northern sides of Richmond and encompasses several of that city’s suburbs. It is currently represented by Representative Dave Bratt (R-VA 7th), who is seeking reelection and is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Two Democratic Party candidates are seeking the nomination to challenge Bratt in the general election: Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward. Democratic voters in the 7th District are lucky to have two reasonable, intelligent candidates seeking their primary votes. Though both are opposed to the right to life, on most other issues Spanberger and Ward are what I would characterize as “center left” (or maybe “sane left”). They are the kinds of Democrats that used to dominate the Democratic Party in Virginia before it moved more in line with the increasingly radical leftism of the national party. Spanberger, however, is the more reasonable of the two.

I recommend that Democratic primary voters in the 7th District choose Abigail Spanberger.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 9th District

Virginia’s 9th District encompasses the far southwestern area of the State, running through the deep Appalachian region from the western side of Roanoke all the way out to the Cumberland Gap where Virginia ends and Kentucky and Tennessee meet. It is currently represented by Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA 9th), who is seeking reelection and is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Two Democratic Party candidates are seeking the nomination to face Griffith in the general election: Anthony Flaccavento and Justin Santopietro. Both Flaccavento and Santopietro present themselves as reasonable, centrist candidates, which is almost a necessity for Democrats running in this deep-red rural district. But reading between the lines of Flaccavento’s rhetoric leaves one with the impression that is he is much further to the left than he is letting on. Santopietro, however, seems much more genuinely and sincerely moderate, and is more in tune with what is best for his district (and the rest of Virginia).

I recommend that Democratic primary voters in the 9th District choose Justin Santopietro.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 10th District

Virginia’s 10th District, my home district, encompasses a part of Northern Virginia that includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, then runs along the northern edge of the state past Winchester and out to the West Virginia border. It is currently represented by Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA 10th), who is seeking reelection in a contested Republican primary.

Six Democratic Party candidates are seeking the nomination to stand in the general election: Julia Biggins, Alison Friedman, Dan Helmer, Paul Pelletier, Lindsey Stover, and Virginia Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-VA 33rd). You might think that in a race with so many candidates the voters would have an abundance of choice, but, sadly, all six appear to be cookie-cutter, hard-left Democrats walking in lock-step with an increasingly radical national party. In such a centrist district, I am disappointed that the Democratic Party could not find even one moderate, or even just an independent-thinking leftist who has a different take on an issue . . . just one issue . . . any issue.

It is difficult to find any substantial difference between these candidates, or between these candidates and the hard-leftism of the national Democratic Party. I make no recommendation.


Republican Party Primaries

Republican Party

Contested Republican Party primary races are being held statewide for one of Virginia’s two seats in the U.S. Senate and three of Virginia’s eleven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Senators serve six year terms and there are no term limits. Elections are held on a staggered schedule, with one of the three classes of senators up for election every two years. Virginia has senators in the first and second classes, and the Democratic Party holds both seats. This year’s election is for the first class seat.

Representatives serve two-year terms and there are no term limits. Elections are held every two years. The Republican Party holds seven of Virginia’s House seats and the Democratic Party holds four.

U.S. Senate, Virginia

Virginia’s first class seat in the U.S. Senate is currently held by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), who is seeking reelection and is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Three Republican Party candidates are seeking the nomination to face Kaine in the general election: Delegate Nick Freitas (R-VA 30th), E.W. Jackson, and Chairman Corey Stewart (R) of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Each of these candidates tick the right boxes: support for the right to life, support for free speech and the freedom of religion, support for self-defense and gun rights, opposition to illegal immigration, support for limited government and fiscal responsibility, and support for low-tax and pro-growth economic policies.

Though Stewart has the most impressive record of the three, he has also shown surprisingly poor and erratic judgement. He made the irrelevant issue of Confederate statues the centerpiece of his losing campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2017, and more recently gave loud public support to disgraced Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in his special election campaign for the U.S. Senate. Jackson, for his part, lacks experience and should probably start his career in elective office somewhere lower than the United States Senate. That leaves Freitas as the most reasonable option.

I recommend that Republican primary voters in Virginia choose Nick Freitas for U.S. Senate.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 2nd District

Virginia’s 2nd District encompasses the Eastern Shore, Virginia Beach, and parts of Norfolk and the Virginia Peninsula. It is currently represented by Representative Scott Taylor (R-VA 2nd), who is being challenged by former James City County Supervisor Mary Jones (R-Berkeley) for the Republican nomination.

Taylor is a center-right Republican and his record in Congress is somewhat mixed. He has generally voted correctly on the key human rights and civil liberty issues that have come before him, but has been a pragmatic centrist in other areas, which has earned him a reputation as a sell-out among the more right-wing elements of the party. Jones is perhaps more consistently and ideologically conservative, but has also misrepresented a number of Taylor’s votes and policy positions and is perhaps too “Trumpian” for Virginia’s more measured and civil style of politics.

I recommend that Republican primary voters in the 2nd District choose incumbent Scott Taylor.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 4th District

Virginia’s 4th District encompasses the southeastern area of the State, running from the western suburbs of Richmond, around the city to the south, and then off into the Hampton Roads area. It is currently represented by Representative Donald McEachin (D-VA 4th), who is seeking reelection and is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Two Republican Party candidates are seeking the nomination to face McEachin in the general election: Shion Fenty and Ryan McAdams. While Fenty has a compelling personal story, she is apparently unwilling to address the most important issues of the day. She offers no support for fundamental human rights and civil liberties such as the right to life, the freedoms of speech and religion, or self-defense and gun rights. She is, however, supportive of the separation of powers and strong limits on federal authority. But McAdams, who holds similarly federalist views in those areas, is preferable to Fenty for his consistent and vocal support of the aforementioned human rights and civil liberties.

I recommend that Republican primary voters in the 4th District choose Ryan McAdams.

U.S. House, Virginia’s 10th District

Virginia’s 10th District, my home district, encompasses a part of Northern Virginia that includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, then runs along the northern edge of the state past Winchester and out to the West Virginia border. It is currently represented by Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA 10th), who is being challenged by Shak Hill for the Republican nomination.

Comstock is a center-right Republican in the “establishment,” big-government wing of the party. While she has voted consistently in favor of the right to life, the freedoms of speech and religion, and self defense and gun rights, she has also been a strong supporter of a large and active federal government, and has repeatedly voted for disastrous and unnecessary deficit spending. But Hill, who does support a smaller federal government and a balanced budget, is far too much of a “Trumpian” populist and lacks depth and experience. We are better served—unfortunately—by staying the course.

I recommend that Republican primary voters in the 10th District choose incumbent Barbara Comstock.