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Name recognition, turnout could be keys to Tuesday’s Democratic primary

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Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is heading toward next Tuesday’s Democratic primary with some important advantages over the field of four other candidates, according to Virginia Tech political expert Karen Hult.

“He has name recognition, significant financial resources and endorsements by the current governor and key African American state legislators,” said Hult, who teaches political science at Virginia Tech and its Center for Public Administration & Policy. “Jennifer Carroll Foy and Jennifer McClellan seem most likely to run closest to McAuliffe, but both would need to significantly mobilize turnout, especially among younger voters, members of racial and ethnic minorities, and women. Strong efforts in urban areas and parts of south side may be of particular value.”

Mobilizing voters to the polls could be a challenge. Such off-year primaries historically have much lower turnout.

“Whether that pattern will hold for Democrats this year seems less clear – many races are competitive, concern remains among many Democrats about the need to protect and expand on advances made in Virginia in voting rights, health care, reproductive rights, criminal justice, and climate change,” said Hult. “Others continue to be angered by Republican efforts in other states to limit voting rights and at the national level to block investigation of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and other legislation – such as infrastructure improvements and gun restrictions – backed by majorities of U.S. citizens.”

The eventual nominee will face Republican Glenn Youngkin, a political newcomer, in the fall.

“Youngkin has at least two key advantages: first, he does not have a public and governmental record to defend; second, he has significant financial resources,” according to Hult. “The eventual Democratic nominee will have a public record to defend, in all likelihood as either a governor and national party fundraiser or as a state legislator. Moreover, the Democratic nominee must be ready to both defend the actions of the current Democratic gubernatorial administration and outline how they plan to maintain, expand or refocus current programs.”


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