By Peter Galuszka

Emily Francis
Emily Francis

Primaries in Virginia used to be a bore, but no longer.

Last year, Dave Brat’s Tea Party-backed insurgency against the seemingly impregnable Eric Cantor garnered national headlines in the 7th Congressional District.

This year, you have several General Assembly races come June 9 that will seek to replace several prominent politicians who are retiring, including Republicans John Watkins of the 10th Senate District; Walter Stosch of the 12th Senate District; and Democrat Charles Colgan of the 29th.

I picked the 10th District race for a piece in Style Weekly. There, historic tax credit developer Dan Gecker, a long time Chesterfield County planning commissioner and supervisor, is up against progressive non-profit consultant Emily Francis and former delegate and lawyer Alex McMurtrie for the Democrat candidacy. Whoever wins faces Republican nominee Glen Sturtevant and Libertarian Carl Loser.

Dan Gecker
Dan Gecker

The race could well determine whether the state senate remains in Republican hands. Should the Democrat win, the mix in the senate could bounce back to 20-20; it is 21-19 now in favor of the GOP. Stephen Farnsworth, a political analyst at the University of Mary Washington,  told me this is the race to watch.

What’s also curious is that the 10th District is a true anomaly. One might assume that such as district would be comfortably GOP. It isn’t since it stretches from the blue areas of Richmond like the Museum District and the Northside. It covers parts of the more conservative mega-neighborhoods of Brandermill and Woodlake in Chesterfield and then all of Powhatan County.

Instead of having the likes of Brat saying that his opponent isn’t conservative enough, Francis says she’s the only true progressive in the race.

Another quirk is that Gecker, a moderate who says he’s a progressive, figured in the Bill Clinton impeachment.

Back in the 1990s, he was lawyer to Kathleen Willey, a Powhatan resident who claimed that Clinton groped her in the White House. Gecker represented her in a book deal. Some Democrats have said that Gecker is a Clinton-basher – an interesting claim now that part of the Democratic establishment is gearing Hillary Clinton for another presidential run.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton confidante, has tried to smooth things over by endorsing Gecker.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. larryg Avatar

    I’m thinking that despite the loud voices of the more Conservative that there are others to their left (which is not a small number) – are rethinking just how Conservative a world they want given the toxicity of some of the positions of the nut jobs these days.

    It won’t result is a complete reversal of the legislatures.. but it may move some seats in some districts with a lot depending on the message of the candidates.

    anyone who advocates MORE govt is toast – and ought to be.

    but those who argue that there is a legitimate role for govt – and make the case are going to prevail over the wack jobs … who say nothing is allowed if it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution.

    we’re having a healthy debate about the role of govt these days.. and while it’s not pretty and downright nasty at times – people are reassessing what they want govt to do – or not do..

  2. Jason Avatar

    Dan Gecker wasn’t just a Clinton basher, he actively advocated for the impeachment of the President –

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Suggest you read my story. Thanks, Peter

  4. Jason Avatar

    Just picked up a copy of Style Weekly because of your cover story (really, just five minutes ago), but I commented based on the post just hinting. Will read for greater context. Thanks!

  5. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    I have no dog in this fight, but the Clinton impeachment issues seems a bit unfair to use against Gecker.

    Lawyers zealously represent clients. That doesn’t mean that they agree with anything that the client believes. I have a hard time holding a lawyer’s representation of a client against the lawyer.

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Forty years ago when Virginia was a one party state (at least at the state and local level) all the primaries mattered. They were, in the cliché, “tantamount to election.” Now with all the whining about gerrymandered districts, one outcome of that development is primaries are back. In many districts the primary is the election again. Not the case in the district Peter describes however — that is a swing district, leaning blue but hardly impossible for the GOP to carry. This is indeed a primary to watch. But it isn’t alone.

    Will incumbents Rosalyn Dance and Steve Martin survive internal challenges? Who will emerge as the nominee to replace Walter Stosch in that very superheated contest? In those cases the November elections are predictable and the primaries really matter. Then there is a challenge to Speaker Howell just up the road a piece. I can’t remember this much important activity right here in the front yard of the Times-Disgrace and the lack of coverage has been indeed disgraceful. Style Weekly should not be the leading media outlet for this story!

    1. Acbar Avatar

      Steve, I love what you say, “primaries are back” and agree with you as to why. I just wish the VA GOP agreed with you and actually chose candidates through primaries rather than conventions across-the-board.

  7. Jason Avatar

    Acbar – Voters in the 12th, 24th, 11th, 8th and other Senate Districts as well as in the 28th House and beyond would sorely disagree with your assertion about conventions “across-the-board” – Republicans are holding primaries across the Commonwealth next Tuesday too.

  8. Andi Epps Avatar
    Andi Epps

    OK, I have had about all the crap I can take without making a few points. I’m not trying to offend anyone here, and I sincerely apologize if the truth hurts. While I do not agree with 100% of every vote Dan Gecker has taken, I do know that he genuinely cares about people and community, he is extremely intelligent, and he understands how to actually accomplish something.
    I don’t know Emily Francis personally, but her campaign has taken “dirty politics” to a new low. I don’t know if the “learn to be a politician” class she graduated from in January 2015 actually tells women to lie, but ENOUGH.

    First of all, Dan Gecker did represent Kathleen Willey after her husband committed suicide. Four years into that representation they got dragged, unwillingly, into the Jones v. Clinton mess. They cooperated with the President’s lawyer (Bennett) and her testimony was done under seal.
    DAN DID NOT advocate for Clinton’s impeachment. He represented his client. I mean really, does anyone think McAullife would endorse Dan, the same year Hillary is running if that were the truth? Please.

    Secondly,trying to marry Dan to Ronald Regan without bothering to note the context speaks volumes. Dan agreed with sentiments Obama made about Regan being a transformational president, but as is usual with printed interviews, his comments were edited. Here is what Obama said:

    Dan received the endorsement of the VEA, so Alex using children in his new video is also pathetic. I’m sure you all know the history there, so it’s not a surprise, just pathetic.

    Dan also spent many a year working to protect the environment as a commissioner and a supervisor.

    Maybe Ms. Francis is simply trying to take any focus off the fact that she has no experience…unless being a lobbyist has been transformed into a good quality for a politician. Maybe the campaign is ignoring the simple truth that SHE CAN NOT WIN THE GENERAL ELECTION. Especially not now, but I am not going to start on the spoiler who I refer to as the “mouth of the west” because this is the donkey clan primary.

    That district will not elect her. It’s that simple. But IMHO, as a young, energetic woman trying to enter the political world,at this point, she REALLY needs to reevaluate. She needs to evaluate the integrity of her campaign, and possibly run a “cleaner” campaign for a local office. That would certainly be better than what she is doing now.

  9. Andi Epps Avatar
    Andi Epps

    But Peter…I am not complaining about your post, JFYI…

Leave a Reply