- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The results of the Democratic primary in Virginia - with its diverse electoral terrain of rural, urban, and suburban voters - could be a key indicator of which Democrat will be chosen to face President Donald Trump in the general election.

The Old Dominion is one of 14 states voting in what’s known as the “Super Tuesday” Democratic primary. Other major states voting include California, Texas and North Carolina.

Virginia represents an important test for many Democratic hopefuls, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Here’s a guide to Election Day:

THE STAKES



Virginia is America in miniature with diverse voting blocs, a mix of rural, urban and suburban areas, and many veteran voters.

Once a key swing state, Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia for the last decade, while also flipping partisan majorities in the state legislature and the congressional delegation. Voter antipathy toward Trump, particularly in the state’s fast-growing suburbs, have helped fuel that shift.

Virginia is not currently a priority for Trump’s reelection campaign, but there is concern among Democrats that if Sanders is his opponent, it will threaten down-ballot races. Still, Virginia is among the few states on Super Tuesday that are considered possibly competitive in the fall.

Scott Bauer, who voted at a Richmond elementary school, said he reached the decision to vote for Biden in the past few days, after the former vice president’s decisive win in the South Carolina primary and after U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who lives in Richmond, endorsed him.

Bauer, a 55-year-old IT consultant, said he worried about Democrats “throwing too much support” to Sanders, who he didn’t think could win in November.

“And that’s the most important thing is to, you know, defeat Trump and win the election for the Democrats,” Bauer said.

CANDIDATES TO WATCH

Biden will be counting on Virginia’s suburban and African American voters to help keep his momentum going after his win in South Carolina on Saturday. Many of the state’s top Democrats have endorsed him, including top African American officials.

Bloomberg has been a regular visitor to Virginia and launched his race here. He’s spent millions of dollars helping elect Democrats in Virginia and spent lavishly on campaign staff and advertising.

Sanders doesn’t need to win Virginia to have a good day on Super Tuesday. But weak results here may reinforce fears from many in his own party’s establishment that Sanders will struggle to win over legions of centrists he’ll likely need against Trump.

A surprise showing in Virginia by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren could be a much-needed boost to her campaign.

In Richmond, Jonathan Ashworth, a 26-year-old engineer, said he voted for Warren because he found her smart, thoughtful and passionate.

“I think she’s got everything it takes to be the leader of this country,” he said.

Ashworth said Warren and Pete Buttigieg were his top candidates and he didn’t make the final decision to vote for Warren until Buttigieg dropped out.

Ivy Austin, a 69-year-old co-owner of a theatrical costume shop, voted for Biden in Richmond.

“I’m a moderate Democrat and I think it just needs to go to the middle because the others are just too far to the left for me,” said Austin, who added that she “waffled back and forth” between Biden, Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar before the latter two dropped out of the race.

KEY DETAILS

Virginia doesn’t register voters by party and the primary is open to anyone registered to vote. Virginia Republicans plan to pick Trump as their party’s nominee later this year at a party convention.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each voter will need to bring a photo ID.

Anyone not already registered won’t be able to vote. Virginia doesn’t allow same-day registration.

___ Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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