2018 Va. Primary Guide: US House, Senate races

Editor’s note: See all of WTOP’s primary coverage on our Elections and Politics page.

WASHINGTON — Primary elections are being held June 12 for all the U.S. House of Representatives seats in Virginia, as well as the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Tim Kaine.

Here’s a look at the candidates and races in the WTOP listening area; click the links for more detailed analysis by WTOP’s Max Smith.

For more on how, when and where to vote, check out WTOP’s Voter Guide to the Virginia primaries.


In Virginia’s First Congressional District, three Democrats —  Edwin Santana, John Suddarth and Vangie Williams — are competing for the chance to run against Republican incumbent Rob Wittman in November.

Santana is a Marine veteran who works as a logistics analyst; businessman Suddarth is a former Army officer, and Williams is a strategic planner for a government contractor.

All three listed health insurance as a key issue, with Santana and Suddarth specifically mentioning a single-payer system as an ultimate goal.

All three also emphasized the need to invest in infrastructure, particularly regarding rural broadband and transportation. Suddarth, a 59-year-old native of Dumfries, said “95 has been backed up my entire life.” Williams wants to focus attention on the areas of the Northern Neck and Littleton, particularly on I-295, I-95 and I-64, while Santana wants to expand VRE service farther south.

Suddarth called campaign finance reform one of his key issues, while Williams touted her INVEST Initiative, which exempts the first $50,000 of income for certain service jobs from federal income tax, and Santana wants to take on the “culture of sexual violence” with programs for age-appropriate sexual education.

The district is a sprawling one, including all or part of 19 counties, with Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck among its features. Wittman has served since 2007.

More on the VA-01 primary race.


In Virginia’s 7th District, the Democratic primary pits Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer, against former Marine Dan Ward. Both list health care and infrastructure as important issues — particularly digital infrastructure, including broadband and cell service in the largely rural district.

Spanberger told WTOP that she decided to run for the House the day the chamber voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act; Ward also wants to strengthen the law. Spanberger emphasizes that she’s “not running against Donald Trump” and listed restoring civility as a priority; Ward said, “If you don’t like what I do — and I’ll make the hard votes — then don’t re-elect me. And I’m OK with that.”

The winner will take on Republican incumbent Dave Brat in November. Brat has been in Congress since 2014, when he pulled off a stunning upset against Eric Cantor, the sitting majority leader. He beat Eileen Bedell by 15 points in 2016.

More on the VA-7 primary race.


The 10th Congressional District has a crowded field — six Democrats are running for their party’s nomination, while incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock has a Republican challenger in Shak Hill.

The Democrats — Julia Biggins, Alison Friedman, Dan Helmer, Paul Pelletier, Lindsey Davis Stover and state Sen. Jennifer Wexton — agree broadly on several key issues, especially regarding health care. They also mostly agree on a need for what several of them call “common-sense” gun control measures, such as universal background checks and closing what’s called the “gun-show loophole.” There’s also a consensus for some combination of new roads and more mass transit, albeit with different favorite projects.

Biggins, an infectious disease scientist, pointed to her background of “making sure I have all the information I need before proceeding,” while Pelletier’s experience as a prosecutor, he said, amounts to “a 30-year history of taking guns off the street” and “standing up to power, and corrupt power in particular.”

Stover, a former official in the Obama administration, said, “I know what it’s like to work three minimum-wage jobs” and still carries $80,000 in student loan debt. Wexton, the only elected official in the race, said, “I’ve run and won two competitive elections in the district. I’ve showed that I can work across the aisle when I get there.”

Friedman, a former State Department official, pointed to her fundraising advantage. “We know [Comstock] is going to be well-funded. That is going to matter,” while Helmer, a business strategist and Army veteran, said Comstock “has won against every politician she’s faced. She’s never run against someone with a record of military service.”

On the GOP side, Comstock is confident in her experience in Congress and prior time in the General Assembly. She said she has worked closely with businesses in the district, and understands the area as a longtime resident.

“I’m the only candidate in this race who has cut taxes,” Comstock said, adding, “I have delivered for this district.”

Hill is running against Comstock because, he said, she’s “violated all the fiscal conservative promises she [made] us” with her votes for government-funding bills. The last straw that convinced him to run, he said, was her vote for a bill allowing for transgender surgeries in the military.

He described Comstock as a “rabid Never Trumper” and member of “the swamp” looking to “buy today’s votes with our grandchildren’s money.” He added that voters “want someone to help President Trump move the America First agenda.”

Asked about local issues such as transportation, he said, “The role of the federal government is not to solve individual problems. At all.”

Comstock said of Hill, “He has not won any elections.”

More on the VA-10 primary race (Democratic race and Republican race).

U.S. Senate

Three Republicans are running to challenge U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, in November — Del. Nick Freitas; Bishop E.W. Jackson and Corey Stewart, the at-large chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

The three agree largely on the issues of the size of the federal government and their support of President Donald Trump.

Stewart claimed he’ll be the president’s “biggest supporter” in the Senate and pointed out how close most Senate votes have been in the current Congress. He added that he’s “won five elections in blue Northern Virginia.”

Freitas said he’s the only candidate in the race serving in a legislature; Jackson, while saying, “I’m not an African-American; I’m an American,” also said his ability to turn out the black vote makes him the only candidate who can beat Kaine.

Stewart said he wants to focus federal resources on solutions for traffic on I-66 and I-95 “without tolls,” while Freitas has ideas that don’t involve road construction, such as allowing federal employees to work remotely and spreading out federal agencies to different parts of the state.

Regarding guns and school safety, Stewart pointed to the fact that Prince William was the first county in Virginia to hire retired police officers in all 95 county schools, while Freitas said the key was to “address the behavior” behind school shootings and “focus on the things that all sides agree on.”

Jackson said that “our country is in a time of crisis” and that it’s important to “give people with traditional values a sense of hope and inspiration and encouragement.”

More on the Virginia Senate primary race.

WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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