The June 18 Primary: Money, Trump and Identity Politics

By Ken Reid

It’s not an exact science to get lessons from primaries, where turnout can be as low as 10% and when voters can choose which primary they want to vote in (as is the case in Virginia). But I will go ahead and play political scientist here and give you some takeaways from what happened in Virginia Tuesday.

Republicans — money and Trump’s endorsement matter. Hung Cao, the best financed among five running for the GOP nomination to face incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine, had Trump’s endorsement. None of his opponents came close to beating him — despite a scandal about his formation of a PAC that benefited his campaign not the Republicans he said he was going to help in 2023, and being dismissive of visiting far- flung areas of the state and avoiding debates.

Cao won the primary with 166,668 votes (61.79%). Coming in second was Scott Parkinson with only 10.95% of the vote – not even close. Collectively, his four opponents got 100,000 votes, which means if Cao faced just ONE opponent in the primary, instead of four dividing the vote, he still would have won the nomination to face Kaine.

Cao is a prolific fundraiser who relies heavily on the Vietnamese communities in California and Virginia (his family fled Vietnam when he was four). I had thought the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia would have fueled his vote, but in looking at his vote, he won pretty much every county and city in the state, including areas where the Vietnamese community is small.

Money, Trump’s endorsement and ballot experience (he lost a District 10 House race in 2022) were the key factors in Cao’s overwhelming win.

In the 5th district, it appears State Sen. John McGuire, who had Trump’s endorsement, eked out a slight win over incumbent Rep. Bob Good, by about 320 votes – but the race has not been officially called as of this writing.

This was a race about payback. Good had endorsed Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary and although he immediately backed Trump when DeSantis got out, some of his statements about the former president stuck with Trump, who said in an interview, “He turned his back on our incredible Movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave me a warm and ‘loving’ Endorsement — But really, it was too late! The damage had been done.”

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also backed McGuire. McCarthy did so because Good was one of eight Republicans who voted to oust him as speaker, which Democrats joined in on. McCarthy also tried to unseat South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, one of the eight, and that failed earlier this month.

The 5th District is among the most conservative in Virginia and keeps ousting Republicans who are not conservative enough, so it seems. Good beat Denver Riggleman in 2020, after Riggleman served only one term. Riggleman won in 2018 after incumbent Tom Garrett – who had only held the seat for one term himself – withdrew due to a scandal. Garrett is now back in the General Assembly and Riggleman left the GOP and became anti-Trump, serving as an investigator on the House 1/6 Committee.

So, McGuire’s prospects of surviving in Congress, if he defeats Democrat Gloria Tinsley Watts, seem dim. Democrats continue to eke closer to taking the seat, based on recent results.

Open-seat primaries 7th and 10th districts. Derrick Anderson, also the best financed, won the GOP nomination over five rivals, taking about 46% of the vote in the 7th district, which is being vacated by Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who is focusing full time on running for Governor of Virginia in 2025.
Anderson now faces Democrat Eugene Vindman, a figure in the 2019 House hearings that led to Trump’s impeachment over his trying to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Vindman also was very well financed, he had the Washington Post endorsement, and the important African American vote in the district was split among six rivals – including four current or former elected officials.
Interestingly, more people voted in the GOP than Democrat primary — 35,734 Republican, 34,175 Democrat. Both Vindman and Anderson are white males, so there is no real ethnic/racial/sex advantage, which seems to drive the Democrat vote.

While neither candidate has ballot recognition, it seems the GOP could flip this seat, according to polls. Expect a lot of money to pour into the race, although Democrats should have the advantage.

In the 10th district, the shoot-em-up among 12 Democrats seeking to succeed retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton resulted in a victory for State Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, who represents Eastern Loudoun, winning the nomination over some better-financed opponents, notably Del. Dan Helmer, who was No. 2 in the voting.

Subramanyam, who had worked in the Obama administration in the technology area and had Wexton’s endorsement, got 30.37% of the vote, 13,063, to Helmer’s 11,494 (26.72% of the vote).

Subramanyam, who won election in the 2019 Blue wave and was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2023, seemed to focus on the niche of Hindu, Sikh and other voters from South Asia, which are dominant in Loudoun. According to the Washington Post. Subramanyam “tapped heavily into the region’s growing South Asian community to raise $1 million — with an extra $575,000 from the pro-Indian American candidate Impact Fund PAC.”

He won Loudoun, which is about 50% of the general election vote in the 10th, but lost Fairfax, Prince William, Fauquier and Rappahannock counties to Helmer. Helmer had raised $1.5 million and had $5.4 million in political action committee help.

Neither he, state Senator Jennifer Boysko, former House Del. And Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and a few other candidates even lived in the 10th. The three of them reside in parts of Fairfax County not in the 10th.

The interesting factoid was the 3d place finisher, Atif M. Qarni, who was Virginia Secretary of Education under Gov. Ralph Northam, a Marine who served in Iraq, and two-time-loser for House of Delegates and State Senate. He lives in Manassas and may have drawn votes from Muslim voters, who are dominant in the 10th, to get 11% of the vote – beating out better financed politicians like Boysko (9.08%), Filler-Corn (9.32) and Loudoun Del. David Reid (3.21%).

The lesson here is that identity politics rules in the Democratic Party primaries, except when one or two dominant identity groups are divided among candidates like in the 7th primary. Whenever a candidate is in a crowded race, focus on a niche to win.

At this point, I think Subramanyam has the best shot to win election in November and become the first Hindu to be elected to a national office in Virginia. That’s partly because Democrats bested Republicans in their primary – 43,018 votes vs.26,638 – and Subramanyam has already won two state Senate elections in Loudoun.

The GOP nominee is Mike Clancy, who raised the most money and overwhelmed his four rivals, including Aliscia Andrews, who was the GOP nominee against Wexton in 2020 and has served in the Youngkin administration. Clancy got more than 64% of the vote. Clancy sought the GOP nomination in 2022 and lost to Cao.

Complete primary election results can be found here.

Ken Reid is a former Loudoun County supervisor and Leesburg Town Council member who was the GOP nominee for State Senate in District 37 in Fairfax County in 2023.  He also is a journalist by trade, and published newsletters in the FDA field for 30 years.   

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22 responses to “The June 18 Primary: Money, Trump and Identity Politics”

  1. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    In a different post on McGuire-Good race, I had commented that for the TDS people, Good supporting DeSantis would make him the better choice. And this article about Charlottesville, where TDS is the greatest outside of NoVa and Orange Man is a threat to Democracy, would seem to confirm that –
    They wouldn't vote for Good and they won't vote for McGuire, but they will vote against anything "Trump."

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Glad to see Qarni, Boysko, and Filler Corn get bounced. Would like to see Good lose. I never liked the dirty trick play he used on Riggleman.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      nah, not a dirty trick — Republican politics.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        …lifted from the Donkey playbook.

  3. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    NoVA- I am confused why the Dems had so many people (about ten I think) running for Wexton's seat…not my district but just wondering strategy. And it sounds like mini-majority wins, no need for 50%.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    Is it truly "identity politics" or candidate diversity for the Dems?

    I'd say, in general, the Dems much more reflect the actual diverse demographics of the electorate whereas the GOP and Trump seem pretty stuck on who they mostly represent – per the actual wide angle view of Trump rallies (as opposed to whom the placard holders are right behind him).

    1. Ken Reid Avatar
      Ken Reid

      Democratic voters vote on skin color, sex, sexual orientation so thats what I meant by "identity politics." In the 10th, it might be ethnic/religious affinity politics. The vote was split among 12 Democrat candidates, Subrayanm focused on a niche — the Hindu/Sikh community — and Qarni got third place perhaps by focusing on Muslim voters. Id have to examine the precincts to be sure of this. Enthusiasm drives turnout and these communities were excited about voting for someone in their community. In case of the Democrat 7th, the black and Latino vote, which is very important in a Dem primary, was splintered among the non-white candidates and Vindman won. He has the most money and ads, too. But now in the general, he faces another white male and won't generate that "excitement" that Democrat voters crave for — i.e. electing the First this or that to Congress. I think Derrick Anderson has a shot at winning

  5. Teddy007 Avatar

    The loss of Bob Good shows why Trump dominates the Republican Party. Trump will take revenge on anyone who wrongs him. Everyone will get the message. Of course, what happens after Trump leaves the stage becomes an even bigger unknown since only Trump can be Trump.

    And if the Republicans would have picked DeSantis over Trump, Biden would be a significant underdog. Only Trump gives Biden a path to victory.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: " Trump will take revenge on anyone who wrongs him." And great instincts for a would-be leader of the USA and Free world…. NOT!

    2. Randy Huffman Avatar
      Randy Huffman

      Disagree in some respect with respect to why Good will likely lose. I voted for McGuire, and Trumps endorsement had nothing to do with it, though it could have influenced others. Whether Desantis or Haley would have rolled over Biden is speculation.

      I also do not believe Trump is always that vindictive over the course of time. There have been a number of times he has worked with, even embraced, those he has had disagreements with in the past. Rubio and Cruz are good examples.

      I wonder if the VP pick this year might actually drive some voters one way or another. Hopefully Trump makes a solid choice.

      1. Teddy007 Avatar

        Trump has personally insulted both Rubio and Cruz along with Cruz’s wife and father. That they accepted the insults and did not push back showed Trump that he could bully them. That is the basis of the Republican Party these days. Either let Trump have his way or Trump will start attacking people.

        1. Randy Huffman Avatar
          Randy Huffman

          Trump is a hot head and is frequently insulting, I will give you that. That is why I did not vote for him in either Primary.

          But to depict the entire Republican party as you describe is not accurate. Alot of people fall behind Trump as the party leader, even if they don't like his tactics, because they generally support his policies. Who in their right mind really wants Biden for four more years other then party activists, or those who are supporting those who are managing him (because we all know he is not running the country)?

          Cruz and Rubio put the 2016 campaign behind them and supported Trump after they pulled out, no different the Harris did with Biden, or Clinton did with Obama.

          1. Teddy007 Avatar

            Not the same at all. And remember, Biden will get more votes than Trump. The question in 2024 is whether Trump will win the electoral college vote. Trump has received 47% of the vote twice. Does anyone really believe that Trump will not be close to that number a third time.

          2. Randy Huffman Avatar
            Randy Huffman

            The electoral college was established for the very purpose it serves today, so that large states like NY would not sway a national election. I personally have no faith in the election integrity in some of these deep blue cities/states like California, that allows for ballot harvesting, and mail ballots to everyone. I grew up in Chicago, and it was not funny to me when it was repeated “vote early, and vote often”. Times have changed, and now mail in voting in certain states is very suspect in how it is managed.

            Whether Trump gets more than 47% is TBD based in large part on who the 3rd party candidates are.

          3. Teddy007 Avatar

            I guess when one has delusions about election integrity, then one will believe anything that support one’s position. And remember, it was the now deep red states that first benefitted from the 3/5 rule and then benefitted from not following one man/one vote, and finally benefitted from Jim Crow. And RFK is not doing too well about qualifying for state ballots.

          4. Ken Reid Avatar
            Ken Reid

            I don't know what Good did to earn Trump's scorn other than the DeSantis endorsement and maybe voting to oust Kevin McCarthy. If anyone has any insight, I'd like to know. I didn;t research that deep for this article. What kills me is that Kevin McCarthy pumped millions to defeat Good just out of revenge and did the same against Nancy Mace. Why is McCarthy spending money to defeat Republicans vs. helping defeat Democrats???

          5. Randy Huffman Avatar
            Randy Huffman

            I can only speak for myself. When Denver Riggleman was in the House, I generally liked him and his policies. I was not happy that Good ran against him, and I believe he only won because it was a caucus, not a primary.

            Having said that, after Trump lost, I did not understand why Riggleman decided to go scorched earth against Trump, and his role in the January 6 commission which was a one sided farce. So figured it might have been for the best. I am more moderate on several issues, especially social matters, so never embraced Good.

            So when McGuire took up the challenge I looked over his policies and liked him and his story better. Trump's endorsement, and for that matter McCarthy, never entered into the equation for me.

            However, I was pretty pissed when the small group of House members, Good included, got together and ousted McCarthy. You noted the money being spent on defeating a Republican, well what about the money to oust the Speaker, when the Republican's had such a slim majority. What a gift to the Democrats!

            Finally, the PAC's ads that supported Good did solidify my vote, I hated their ads.

        2. BasedCalvinCoolidge Avatar

          He already has my vote, you don’t have to work so hard to convince me!

          1. AngloVirginian Avatar

            Right on Cal! America First 🇺🇸

  6. VaPragamtist Avatar

    The 5th District is among the most conservative in Virginia and keeps ousting Republicans who are not conservative enough, so it seems.

    I see this a little differently. I think this race shows how out of touch the party leadership in the 5th is with the average voter. Angry people like Mark and Anita Hile. People who make themselves feel important like Chris and Diana Shores. The people who took control of party leadership when Dave Brat ran for reelection. Far right sycophants.

    They ran the party into the ground, dividing Republicans instead of uniting.Meanwhile Bob Good is too busy bloviating about philosophical issues and destroying any hope at collaboration instead of doing something positive for his district.

    So along comes McGuire, a common sense conservative. Like Good himself said, McGuire didn't run to the right of him, he ran to the Trump of him. Capitalize on the Trump name, win the endorsement.

    So he had some voters who only care about the Trump name, but a lot of voters who are tired of the joke the party has become, the focus on blind allegiance to broad, philosophical principles instead of actually doing something tangible for one of the poorest regions in the state. They clutch their pearls and crucify Riggleman for (gasp!) officiating the same sex marriage of one of his staffers instead of thinking about how we can win the hearts of all voters. Figure out how they can use archaic sections of Roberts Rules of Order and other tricks to manipulate meetings and stay in their positions.

    The Republican Party in the 5th has become a joke. This primary–where almost the entire local structure was campaigning hard for the incumbent and attacking the (now) nominee–showed how little the average Republican voter thinks about the local party. It's a clown show.

    Hopefully this will knock some sense into those who need it. If not, whatever. . .the thing about the angry old people running the local parties is that, their being constantly angry and old, in 15 years or so the problem will solve itself naturally.

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