Candidate roundup: Who’s running for Isle of Wight’s, Surry’s new state House seats?
Published 5:51 pm Monday, February 27, 2023
In four months Isle of Wight and Surry county voters will choose their preferred Democratic and Republican candidates for new Virginia House of Delegates Districts.
Both parties have scheduled primary elections on June 20 to decide contested races.
Virginia this year will for the first time use new redistricting maps the Supreme Court of Virginia adopted in 2021 based on the 2020 Census. The maps removed Isle of Wight from the reliably Republican 64th House District and split the county between the more competitive 83rd and 84th districts. The maps also removed Surry from the 64th and placed the county in the new 82nd District.
The 84th now spans north from Franklin through most of the Isle of Wight-Suffolk border, with Suffolk voters accounting for roughly 77% of the district’s total population. Isle of Wight voters account for just over 13%.
The 83rd includes most of Smithfield and western Isle of Wight, spanning southwest through all of Southampton, Sussex, Greenville and Brunswick counties, the city of Emporia and part of Dinwiddie County. Isle of Wight voters comprise 33.5% of the district, the highest percentage of any of the seven localities.
The 82nd includes all of Surry County and Petersburg, most of Prince George County and areas of Dinwiddie County not in the 83rd. Surry voters account for just under 9% of the district’s population, the smallest percentage of any of the four localities.
According to Liam Watson, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, each of the Democratic House races will be a true primary rather than a convention. In a primary, polls open in each locality on the date of the primary election, and voters have the option of voting early at their Registrar’s Office or by absentee ballot. A convention, on the other hand, is held at one place at a specific date and time, and voters wishing to cast a ballot must travel to that place and fill out what’s known as a convention delegate form.
For each race that uses a primary, candidates have until 5 p.m. April 6 to file paperwork to get their names on the ballot. Primary races require each candidate to file a nominating petition bearing the signatures of at least 125 registered district voters for House races and at least 250 registered district voters for Senate races.
For Republican candidates, each Legislative District Committee, a body formed from all of the county-level Republican Party chairs from the localities in each voting district, decide whether to hold a primary or convention.
Bill Yoakum, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Republican Party, said the 83rd will be a true primary, though at present there’s only one GOP candidate: incumbent Del. Otto Wachsmann, R-Sussex. The 84th will be decided by a convention, the date, time and location of which will be decided later this week. Surry Republican Party Chairman Robert Chandler did not immediately respond to The Smithfield Times’ inquiry about whether Surry’s 82nd District race would be a primary or a convention.
Who’s running in the 84th?
Del. Nadarius Clark, D-Portsmouth, represents the current 79th District, which includes areas of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake, but he announced last year he would run as a Democrat for the 84th District seat. He faces a challenge from Michele Joyce of Smithfield.
Clark, at age 26, made history in 2021 by becoming the youngest Democrat in the General Assembly’s history and first-ever African American elected to represent the 79th District. Prior to his election, he’d organized Black Lives Matter protests in Richmond and Hampton Roads in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Joyce, a computer scientist, became a volunteer with former U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign and trained as a volunteer navigator in 2014 when the federal healthcare.gov insurance marketplace came online following the passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. She ran unsuccessfully against Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, as a Democrat in 2019 for the 64th District, which at the time included Isle of Wight, Surry and Prince George counties and part of Suffolk.
Joyce, in campaign literature, has taken issue with Clark not presently residing in the 84th. Clark’s campaign manager, Sullivan “Sully” Peterson-Quinn, confirmed to the Times that Clark plans to move his primary residence to North Suffolk, but hasn’t done so yet.
Brewer, who had been first elected in 2017, won the 2019 race against Joyce with just over 60% of the vote and was reelected to a third term in November 2021 with an even greater 65% share, but found herself redistricted a month later to the 84th, which leans narrowly to Democrats according to the Virginia Public Access Project based on its share of votes from the 2021 governor’s race. In 2022, Brewer announced that she would seek the newly created Senate District 17 seat, also created from the redistricting process, rather than a fourth term in the House.
On the Republican side, retired Navy Capt. Mike Dillender of Suffolk is vying for the GOP’s nomination for the 84th District seat against fellow Navy veteran Rod Thompson, also of Suffolk.
Brewer faces a challenge in the Senate race from former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler of Emporia. The Republican Party of Virginia has decided to hold a convention in that race as well, sometime between May 4 and June 20, though a specific date, time and location have yet to be announced.
Who’s running in the 83rd?
Wachsmann is the only incumbent living within the 83rd District’s boundaries and is presently the only Republican candidate. The pharmacist-turned-delegate won his seat representing the current 75th District in 2021, unseating longtime Democratic incumbent Del. Roslyn Tyler.
According to Joe Puglisi, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Democratic Party, Mary Person of Emporia is the only Democrat to date who has announced an intention to run for the new 83rd District seat. The Virginia Public Access Project also lists no candidates other than Wachsmann and Person.
The Times was unable to locate a campaign website for Person, who did not immediately respond to messages from the Times.
The district could lean Democratic or Republican based on VPAP’s analysis. The district’s share of votes from the 2018 U.S. Senate election favored Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, by 4½ percentage points, though its share of votes from the 2021 governor’s race favored Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, by nearly 14 percentage points.
Who’s running in the 82nd?
Republican Del. Kim Taylor was elected in 2021 to represent the current 63rd District, which spans Petersburg, Dinwiddie and part of Chesterfield County, but was redistricted into the 82nd. She announced her intent in November to run for reelection in the 82nd.
According to VPAP, she’s the only Republican to declare candidacy in the 82nd District race so far.
On the Democratic side, Kimberly Pope Adams of Dinwiddie, Victor “Vic” McKenzie Jr. of Petersburg and Branden Riley, also of Petersburg, are vying for the Democratic nomination.
The 82nd is also a toss-up as to whether it will lean Democratic or Republican. Its share of votes from the 2017 governor’s race, according to VPAP, favored former Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, by nearly 13 percentage points over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. But its share of votes from the 2021 governor’s race saw Youngkin take a roughly 2-point lead over former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.