Biden, Trump win IW, Surry primaries 

Published 8:04 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2024

President Joe Biden trounced author and activist Marianne Williamson and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., in Virginia’s March 5 Democratic primary election, though with roughly half as many votes as he’d received from Isle of Wight and Surry county voters four years ago.

Meanwhile, the number of Republican voters in both counties backing former President Donald Trump has grown since he last faced opponents within his own party in 2016.

Biden carried Isle of Wight with 93.3% of 1,527 votes to Williamson’s 4% and Phillips’ 3.3%.

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The lower turnout reflects a 59% drop from Biden’s 3,482-vote or 65.3% share of 5,343 Democratic ballots cast countywide in the 2020 presidential primary. 

Biden carried Surry this year with 503 votes or just under 94% of the 537 cast countywide to Williamson’s 4% and Phillips’ 1.8%. Biden’s share reflects a 48.5% drop from the 977 votes he’d received in Surry’s 2020 primary.

That said, it’s a widely different playing field this year.

In 2020, Biden defeated 13 challengers with 53% of 1.3 million votes cast statewide in a far more competitive race with no Democratic incumbent that saw well-known candidates like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., each receive double-digit shares of the electorate. In the 2016 primary, with no incumbent president on the ballot for either party, Trump narrowly carried Virginia over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., with 356,896 votes to Rubio’s 327,936.

This year, an incumbent Biden received 315,782 votes or 88.5% of 356,564 Democratic ballots statewide, a  49.4% decrease from the 705,501 Virginians who’d backed him in the 2020 primary.

Trump received 439,143 statewide votes this year, a 63% share of 697,084 Republican ballots cast statewide across a field of six candidates. While Trump’s share equates to a 23% increase from the 356,896 Virginians who’d voted for him in the 2016 primary, the 697,084 total ballots reflect a 30% drop from the roughly 1 million Republicans who voted in the 2016 primary.

Isle of Wight’s share of Trump voters, who in 2016 accounted for 2,497, or 41.5%, of just over 6,000 Republican primary ballots cast countywide, this year increased by 37.5% to 3,434.

The total number of Republican voters who participated in Isle of Wight’s primary this year, however, fell by 23% to 4,615.

Republican voters in Surry cast 550 ballots for Trump, up nearly 52% from the 362 who’d supported his nomination in the 2016 primary. The 681 voters who participated in Surry’s Republican primary, however, reflect a 14.5% decrease from the 797 Republican ballots cast in 2016.

Just 6.4% of Virginia’s 5.5 million registered voters cast ballots in the Democratic primary while roughly 12.5% voted in the Republican one. Isle of Wight saw 5.4% Democratic and 14.7% Republican turnout among its more than 31,000 voters, while Surry saw 9.4% Democratic and just under 12% Republican turnout among its 5,700. Virginia has open primaries where voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in either race but not both.

Surry’s Democratic turnout, while a decrease from 2020, was the fourth highest in the state at 9.3% according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project. Petersburg was the highest at 10.4%

Republican runner-up Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor who previously served as an ambassador under Trump, received 243,786 votes accounting for just under 35% of Republican turnout The remaining 14,165 Republican ballots, accounting for just over 2% of the total, were divided among Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and pastor Ryan Binkley, who finished third through sixth in that order. All but Haley had already suspended their campaigns in either January or February, and Haley too announced on March 6 she would suspend her campaign after losing every state but Vermont to Trump on “Super Tuesday,” when 15 states’ and one U.S. territory’s presidential primaries coincide.

Trump defeated Haley in Isle of Wight with a 74.4% share of the countywide vote to Haley’s 1,117 vote or 24% share. Another 64 Republican ballots, accounting for 1.3% of the countywide vote, were divided among DeSantis, Christie, Ramaswamy and Binkley, who finished third through sixth in that order.

Trump received an 80.7% share of Surry’s 681 ballots to Haley’s 121 or 17.7%. DeSantis, Christie, Ramaswamy and Binkley finished third through sixth in that order.

Trump’s support was largely unaffected by 91 felony charges spanning four separate indictments across multiple states. He’s scheduled to stand trial March 25 in New York on charges of falsifying business records connected to a hush-money payment Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, made to porn-star Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also faces federal charges in Washington, D.C., alleging his participation in a criminal conspiracy to overturn his 2020 electoral loss to Biden, and in Florida, where he’s accused of illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence, as well as state-level charges in Georgia also alleging a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:17 p.m. on March 11 with the certified final tally of votes in each primary.