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Northam, Herring Emerge Victorious in Low-Turnout Virginia Democratic Primary

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Turnout was low in Tuesday's Virginia Democratic primary, with only 140,000 people casting ballots statewide.
WAMU/Michael Pope
Turnout was low in Tuesday's Virginia Democratic primary, with only 140,000 people casting ballots statewide.

In Virginia, the statewide Democratic ticket is now set for the general election coming up in November.

State Senator Ralph Northam of Norfolk will be the Democratic candidate to run for lieutenant governor against Republican E.W. Jackson. And state Senator Mark Herring of Loudoun will be the candidate to run against state Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg for attorney general. Both Northam and Herring were challenged by first-time candidates.

"The fact that they were already elected state officials in a low-turnout election gave them name recognition and gave them a base that served their interests, " said Congressman Gerry Connolly.

Northam beat out first-time candidate Aneesh Chopra of Arlington, who served as chief technology officer for President Barack Obama, taking 54 percent of the 140,000 ballots cast. Herring won against first-time candidate Justin Fairfax of Fairfax County, a former federal prosecutor, with 51 percent of the vote. For many Democrats, the idea of having a slate of first-time candidates was an opportunity to move the party in a new direction.

"We had a chance to run a fantastic ticket with Terry McAuliffe and Aneesh Chopra and Justin Fairfax, and instead we are going to have this monochromatic slate again and I'm really disgusted," said Honorah Price, a Democratic precinct captain in Park Lane in Arlington

Dave Stroup, the digital director for the Chopra campaign, admits that the results were disappointing but says he still has hope for the future. "I'm optimistic that candidate like Aneesh and Justin can continue to be successful in the future with the lessons learned, you know. First time candidates, it's a hard thing."

Unlike Democrats, Republicans chose to select their candidates in a convention rather than a statewide primary. The top of the ticket will pit former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe against Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a race that will be the only competitive gubernatorial contest in the country.


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