Ralph Northam, a Norfolk doctor who became a hero of Virginia's reproductive-rights movement, and fellow state Sen. Mark Herring won statewide Democratic primaries Tuesday for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.
Two respected senior Republican House members, however, were felled by conservative challengers as each sought an 11th term in the General Assembly.
Northam, a pediatric neurologist and the only physician in the Senate, won a large following among female voters in 2012 when he used medical authority to thunder against a Republican-authored bill that would have required an intrusive ultrasound exam of every woman seeking an abortion.
Northam took nearly 55 percent of the vote over former Aneesh Chopra, who used his connections as former White House technology chief under President Barack Obama and Virginia technology secretary under Gov. Tim Kaine to more than double Northam's campaign fundraising.
That sets up a clash of ideological opposites in the Nov. 5 election, pitting Northam against Republican E.W. Jackson, a stridently anti-abortion black minister who accused Planned Parenthood of being more deadly to African-American lives than the Ku Klux Klan because of the number of abortions performed on black women.
On Twitter, Chopra conceded to Northam using the hashtag "Unity." Northam commended Chopra for a "spirited race" and, at among supporters at a Norfolk sports bar, pledged to take the fight to Jackson and what he called a socially extreme GOP ticket.
"The assault on women's health care is going to stop this year," Northam said.
In the only other statewide race, Herring struggled against first-time candidate Justin Fairfax, winning with about 52 percent of the vote over the one-time aide to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and a staff member on Al Gore's 2000 presidential bid.
The results came in a primary that will be remembered for its paltry turnout. Less than 3 percent of the state's 5.2 million registered voters went to the polls to vote in the two Democratic down-ballot contests and 11 House of Delegates primaries.
With the state's gubernatorial nominations already decided for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry R. McAuliffe, there was no marquee race.
While turnout was low across the board, it ranged from 0.006 of registered voters in King William County to about 12 percent in Petersburg, a heavily Democratic region and venue for that party's most bitterly contested House primary.
In that race, Del. Rosalyn Dance, a former Petersburg mayor, defeated challenger Evandra Thompson by about 6 percentage points. Thompson had been recruited and backed by Democratic Del. Joe Morrissey and state Sen. Henry Marsh after Dance infuriated fellow Democrats by supporting a Republican-authored budget that made no provision for expanding Medicaid to about 400,000 Virginia working poor and voiced support for an ambush-style Republican effort to redraw state Senate boundaries.
Democratic Del. Algie T. Howell of Norfolk easily turned aside challenger Rick James.
Eight of the House primaries were for Republican seats, and five of them were challenges to incumbents, including House Speaker William J. Howell and three committee chairmen.
Two of the Republican incumbents, Dels. Joe May of Loudoun and Beverly Sherwood of Frederick County, lost to challengers from the Republican right motivated by the legislators' support for this year's landmark transportation funding reform law that takes effect next month.
May was chairman of the House Transportation Committee and Sherwood chaired the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. Both had been in the House since 1994.
The transportation bill -- sponsored by Speaker Howell and the legislative legacy of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell -- deeply divided legislative Republicans. Supporters defended it as the cure for chronic gridlock that threatened to stall the state's most populous and economically vibrant regions while conservatives, including national anti-tax leader Grover Norquist, condemned it as the largest tax increase in Virginia history.
Two other challenged Republican incumbents, Dels. Todd Gilbert and House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee Chairman Bobby Orrock, survived conservative efforts to unseat them.
By BOB LEWIS AP Political Writer
AP Writer Brock Vergakis contributed to this report from Norfolk.
Winners of Tuesday's Virginia primary elections with the winner's percent of the vote over opponent, according to largely complete but unofficial totals. Incumbents are designated by their legislative titles.
Lieutenant Governor (Dem), Ralph Northam with 54.3 percent over Aneesh Chopra; open seat.
Attorney General (Dem), Mark Herring with 51.6 percent over Justin Fairfax; open seat.
House District 6 (GOP), Jeff Campbell with 70.6 percent over Jack Weaver; open seat.
House District 15 (GOP), Del. Todd Gilbert with 92.1 percent over Mark Prince.
House District 16 (GOP), Les Adams with 80.3 percent over Kenneth Bowman; open seat.
House District 28 (GOP), Speaker William J. Howell with 91.6 percent over Craig Ennis.
House District 29 (GOP), Mark J. Berg with 51.3 percent over Del. Beverly Sherwood.
House District 33 (GOP), Dave LaRock with 57.4 percent over Del. Joe May.
House District 54 (GOP), Del. Bobby Orrock with 56.7 percent over Dustin Curtis.
House District 63 (Dem), Del. Rosalyn Dance with 52.9 percent over Evandra Thompson.
House District 85 (GOP), Scott Taylor with 44.6 percent over Gary Byler and Jeremy Waters; open seat.
House District 86 (Dem), Jennifer Boysko with 77.3 percent over Herb Kemp; open seat.
House District 90 (Dem), Del. Algie T. Howell with 68.1 percent over Rick James.
Source: The Associated Press.
Statement from Ralph Northam:
"It is an honor to be the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. Now let's win in November and return our Commonwealth to the years of Governors Warner and Kaine that focused on the issues that matter most to Virginians. We must roll back the damage that has been done in the last two years and stop the assault on women's reproductive health care," said Ralph Northam.
"For those meeting me for the first time as we enter the general election, I want to introduce myself. I grew up on the Eastern Shore and went to school at the Virginia Military Institute. I served our country in the U.S. Army as a doctor for eight years, rising to the rank of Major and caring for our troops during Desert Storm. I am a pediatric neurologist and founding partner at Children's Specialty Group at the Children's Hospital of King's Daughters. As the only doctor in the Senate, I have been an advocate for Virginians' health by authoring the smoking ban in restaurants and creating safety guidelines for students who suffer concussions," said Senator Ralph Northam.
"As your next Lieutenant Governor, we can return Virginia to its rightful rank as the best place to raise a family, start a business, and educate a child," said Senator Ralph Northam.
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe released the following statement congratulating Ralph Northam and Mark Herring on their nominations as Virginia's Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General:
"I would like to congratulate Ralph Northam on becoming the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Ralph has dedicated his career to improving the lives of Virginia's families and communities, both as a State Senator for Virginia and as a pediatric neurologist. Ralph has been a tireless advocate for women's health, has worked to strengthen our education systems, and helped pass crucial legislation aimed at improving the health of Virginians and protecting first responders. I look forward to the work Ralph and I will do together to make Virginia the best state in the nation to do business and raise a family.
"I want to also congratulate Mark Herring on becoming the Democratic nominee for Attorney General of Virginia. The critical work Mark did as co-patron of the bipartisan transportation compromise is a testament to his commitment to tackling the challenges Virginia's communities face in a bipartisan manner. I look forward to continuing to work with him on issues he has been a leader on in the State Senate representing Loudoun and Fairfax counties, including improving our local education systems and making Virginia more attractive to innovative companies. We need responsible leaders like Mark in Richmond who will strive to make our government more efficient, open, and better for the people of the Commonwealth. I know Mark will restore a pragmatic focus on the issues Virginians care about to the Office of the Attorney General."
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