In the end, the 57th District race pitting a millennial and a baby boomer for the open House of Delegates seat wasn’t even close. Thirty-year-old Sally Hudson crushed two-term City Councilor Kathy Galvin with 66 percent of the vote in the June 11 primary.
The same dynamic played out in the Democratic primary for City Council, where there are three open seats. Michael Payne, 26, led the pack of five candidates. In November, he’ll supplant outgoing councilor Wes Bellamy, 28 when elected, for the title of youngest person to sit on council.
“I think it’s a big turning point for our small community,” says former councilor Dede Smith, who is a Hudson and Payne supporter. “We’re coming into a new era with our leadership.”
For former mayor Dave Norris, Hudson’s margin of victory “indicates local voters are ready for a new direction.”
Hudson says, “It was striking we won every precinct in the district.” She’s unopposed in the November general election, and she says she’ll spend time helping other Dems get elected because “the Republicans in Richmond are so unsupportive of what we want to get done.” The GOP holds the House by a slim, two-seat majority.
In the City Council race, many had predicted well-known lawyer and top fundraiser Lloyd Snook, 66, would bring in the most votes. He came in second behind Payne.
“The order surprised me,” says Smith. And Sena Magill’s taking third place was also a surprise for Smith. “I thought Brian Pinkston was emerging.”
Former city councilor Bob Fenwick, 73, trailed in last place.
“I think it’s a generational shift,” says Smith. “Being a candidate in the fairly recent past, most voters were baby boomers or older. It was shocking. I think we’re beginning to see a wake up to this maturing [millennial] generation that voting matters.”
For Payne, co-founder of Indivisible Charlottesville, leading the pack is a sign “the community wants to see bold, progressive change on affordable housing, racial equity, and climate change.”
“One of the qualities Michael and I share is a sense of the fierce urgency of now,” says Hudson.
Primary winners Payne, Snook, and Magill will face independents Bellamy Brown and Paul Long on the November 5 ballot, and while the odds are in their favor in Dem-heavy Charlottesville, in 2017 Mayor Nikuyah Walker became the first independent to get on council since 1948.
Statewide, UVA Center for Politics’ Kyle Kondik saw “some progressive energy,” but that didn’t always prevail, notably in the 35th District race in which incumbent Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw eked by his challenger.
“If Democrats win the House and Senate, it will be the most liberal state government in Virginia ever,” says Kondik. Hudson, he says, is to the left of outgoing House Minority Leader David Toscano. If Dems take the General Assembly and get a chance to govern, he says that could result in policy change—the same message Hudson was hammering.
The other trend in local Democratic primary races is that women prevailed. Chief Deputy Chan Bryant defeated RMC regional director Patrick Estes with 63 percent of the vote to secure the party’s nomination for Albemarle sheriff. She’ll face independent Ronnie Roberts, Lousia police chief, in November.
And in the Rivanna District, Bea LaPisto Kirtley edged out Jerrod Smith with 54 percent of the vote. She does not have a challenger for the Albemarle Board of Supervisors in the general election in November.
The other General Assembly primary that includes part of Albemarle is the 17th District, where former Charlottesville School Board member Amy Laufer’s 79 percent of the vote obliterated Ben Hixon. Laufer will face incumbent state Senator Bryce Reeve, who easily fended off challenger Rich Breeden with 82 percent of the vote in that district’s Republican primary.
Correction June 17: Jerrod Smith was misidentified in the original story.