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Climate Politics Almanac: The 2023 Virginia Primary

Climate hawks, Green New Dealers, and the Dominion resistance

Last year, Virginia’s state supreme court approved a major redistricting plan in the wake of the 2020 census. Today’s primary is the first election for Virginia’s new state senate districts. Many incumbents found their districts merged, guaranteeing a dynamic race.

Fortunately for climate hawks and Green New Dealers, many of the Democratic primaries feature candidates vying with each other for the climate vote, as can be seen by some of the split endorsements from climate groups like the Sierra Club Virginia—which favors incumbency—Clean Virginia—whose top issue is countering the political influence of the fossil-fuel utility Dominion Energy—and Climate Cabinet, which prioritizes legislative track record. Other endorsing climate groups include my former organization Climate Hawks Vote, and a keep-it-in-the-ground coalition of the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Lead Locally, Oil Change U.S., and Zero Hour.1 Below are some of the top results from today’s primary.

Virginia State Senate Results

Lashrecse Aird celebrates her victory over the conservative state Sen. Joe Morrisey tonight.

SD-13 (Prince George): The progressive Lashrecse Aird, endorsed by Clean Virginia, Climate Hawks Vote and the Keep It in the Ground group, easily defeated ex-GOP anti-abortion incumbent Joe Morrissey.

SD-14 (Richmond): Sen. Lamont Bagby, backed by Climate Cabinet and Virginia League of Conservation Voters, easily won his primary.

SD-31 (Leesburg): Climate Cabinet and Clean Virginia both backed the winning candidate, Russet Perry, for the open seat.

SD-32 (Loudon): Clean Virginia-backed Del. Suhas Subramanyam defeated the more progressive challenger, former Del. Ibraheem Samirah.

SD-33 (Woodbridge): Sen. Jennifer Carroll Foy, backed by Clean Virginia and the Keep It in the Ground coalition for being the chief co-patron of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, solidly won her primary.

SD-35 (Springfield): Moderate state Sen. Dave Marsden, who was backed by Climate Cabinet for co-sponsoring the Virginia Clean Economy Act, defeated good-government businesswoman Heidi Drauschak, backed by the public-transit union ATU Local 689 and Clean Virginia.

SD-40 (Arlington): The Sierra Club, Clean Virginia, and Climate Cabinet all supported incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola, who easily won tonight.

The following primaries between climate candidates are uncalled:

The unopposed Sen. Aaron Rouse (SD-22) is backed by Climate Cabinet, Clean Virginia, Sierra Club, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

Sierra Club also backed several other senate incumbents for re-election. Bagby and Rouse are the only senate endorsements by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

Virginia State Assembly

HD-57 (Short Pump): Incumbent solar advocate Del. Bob Shippee, endorsed by Climate Cabinet and the Sierra Club, lost to challenger Susanna Gibson, a nurse practioner who ran on healthcare and abortion rights, in a close race.

HD-92 (Norfolk): NAACP environmental justice advocate and Mothers Out Front pipeline fighter Kim Sudderth, backed by Climate Hawks Vote, the Keep It in the Ground group, Climate Cabinet, Virginia LCV, and the Sierra Club, is in an uncalled race with education advocate Bonita Anthony for the open seat.

Several other multiply-endorsed climate candidates won easily: Adele McClure (HD-2), Rae Cousins (HD-79), and Nadarius Clark (HD-84).

Overall, the story of the night was that climate hawks had much to cheer from in the primary, with Democratic slate strong enough that either candidate will fight for climate action against the Virginia Republican Party.

We’re not going to bother with the GOP primary results; suffice it to say that the contested seats will offer a clear choice for voters in the fall.

UPDATE 6/23:

  • SD-37 (Fairfax): Salim defeated Peterson.

  • HD-92 (Norfolk): Sudderth lost to Anthony.

1 Technically, the endorsing groups are the 501c(4) or PAC arms of these organizations.

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