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Halifax delivers for upstarts / June 15, 2017

A pair of upstart candidates for governor did well in Tuesday’s open primary in Halifax County, but it wasn’t enough to sway the statewide outcome.

Former 5th District congressman Tom Perriello, a Democrat, and Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart, a Republican, took solid wins in Halifax, but both candidates lost their bids to lead their parties into the November general election as candidates for governor.

Instead, Virginia Democrats nominated Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for governor by a resounding 55-44 percent over Perriello. On the Republican side, the race was tight throughout Tuesday night, but Ed Gillespie, the favorite of many elected party officials — including local Del. James Edmunds and state Sen. Frank Ruff — squeaked out a one point victory over Stewart, 43.72 percent to 42.54 percent.

Less than 5,000 votes separated the two leading Republican candidates out of 366,166 votes cast in the state primary. A third contender for governor, Virginia Beach state Sen. Frank Wagner took less than 14 percent of the overall GOP vote.

In Halifax County, Stewart confounded the local political establishment by beating Gillespie handily. Running on a message of opposition to immigration and support for Confederate monuments, Stewart collected 820 votes in Halifax, compared to 621 for Gillespie and 77 for Wagner. Stewart’s winning margin in Halifax was 53.3 percent.

It was Perriello, however, who had the strongest night in Halifax of any of the statewide candidates. The former congressman carried the county by a whopping 77 percent — with 1,245 votes to 368 for Northam.

Turnout was light by normal election standards, but the June voting was much heavier than it has been in prior years when primaries decided the makeup of statewide tickets for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The vote in the Democratic primary was up by 58 percent from 2009, the last time the party had a competitive primary for governor.

One voter in the Democratic primary, Tomika Thaxton, said she was eager to come out on the broiling Tuesday to support Perriello, who she called “a great man.” Another local voter, Adrean Coleman, said she was prodded to go vote by a canvas worker: “[I voted] because a little lady came to my door and asked me to vote. I said I would”

On the Republican side, Wayne Bradshaw said he was motivated to cast his ballot in the GOP primary because “I always vote — never missed an election.” Coming out to the BlacK Walnut precinct, however, Bradshaw said he was dismayed by what he saw: turnout “is disgusting.

“It’s the only right we’ve got left, just about,” he said of casting his ballot.

The turnout on both sides was “very light,” remarked Halifax County Registrar Heather Harding, observing that of the county’s 23,875 registered voters, only 3,151 cast a ballot for governor.

This time around, more people voted in the Democratic primary (1,613) than the Republican primary (1,538).

Also on the ballot were the Republican and Democratic nomination races for lieutenant governor.

For the Democrats, former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax prevailed in Halifax County with 591 votes, followed by Susan Platt with 365 votes and Gene Rossi with 188 votes. All three candidates hail from Northern Virginia. Fairfax easily won the statewide vote in the Democratic primary.

For the GOP, Spotsylvania state senator Bryce Reeves received 828 votes to carry the county, with Fauquier state senator Jill Vogel getting 350 and Virginia Beach delegate Glenn Davis taking 298 votes. Voge won statewide.

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