Gade wins Virginia GOP bid for Senate seat held by Warner

Virginia Republicans have picked Daniel Gade to be their nominee and face off against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner for a Senate seat later this year.
Virginia Republicans have picked Daniel Gade to be their nominee and face off against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner for a Senate seat later this year. (WSLS)

 Virginia Republicans have picked Daniel Gade to be their nominee and face off against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner for a Senate seat later this year.

Gade won a low-key primary Tuesday against two other opponents. Gade raised by far the most money and has the highest profile of the three.

Once a hotly contested swing state where Senate elections were decided by small margins, Virginia has swung solidly blue in the Trump era as voters in the state's growing suburbs reject the president's agenda. Republicans haven't won a statewide election in more than a decade.

Gade is a retired Army officer who was seriously injured in Iraq in 2005, losing a leg after his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. Gade advised President George W. Bush on military and disability issues and was Trump's appointee to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but withdrew his nomination after a lengthy delay in the Senate over his confirmation. Gade previously taught at West Point and now teaches at American University.

If elected, Gade pledged not to be a "rubber stamp" for the president but said Trump is "good on the policies that I care about," including religious liberty.

Warner barely won six years ago against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, but no experienced Republicans wanted to take Warner on this time around. Former Congressman Scott Taylor initially announced a bid before changing his mind and running for his old, much more competitive, Virginia Beach-area U.S. House seat instead.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Polls have closed in Virginia, where voters are choosing Republican and Democratic nominees for various congressional races in low-key primary elections.

Republicans picked among three political newcomers Tuesday to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in the general election this fall. Although Warner nearly lost six years ago, no big-name Republican chose to challenge him this time.

With its fast-growing suburbs, Virginia is becoming reliably Democratic during the Trump era. No Republican has won a statewide election in more than a decade.

Polls closed at 7 p.m. Turnout was light and the primaries were delayed two weeks by Gov. Ralph Northam because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Virginia Department of Elections said voting precincts increased cleaning and physical markers to ensure social distancing. There was a surge in voting by mail, and the state allowed any registered voter to vote absentee because of the virus.

In Virginia Beach, electronic pollbooks - computers used to verify voters are registered and at the right polling location - were programmed incorrectly, so poll workers were initially unable to check in voters. Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper said poll workers issued provisional ballots and no voters were turned away.

"The fix was easily identified and now they are deploying it across the locality," Piper said.

"It was an error in the setup. There's no security concern here," he said.

The Department of Elections also reported brief power outages at several polling locations in Henrico, Franklin and Loudoun counties. Most of the outages appeared to be related to thunderstorms, while one appears to have been caused by a snake located on the transformer, which tripped a fuse.

Piper said voting continued as usual using battery backups and generators.

"There were no voting disruptions reported," Piper said.

Republicans in Hampton Roads will decide whether Scott Taylor will get a rematch with Democratic U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria. She defeated Taylor in one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the country two years ago.

Democrats in the western part of the state will also pick from among four candidates to challenge Republican Bob Good. He knocked off incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman earlier this month at a convention. Riggleman angered social conservatives by officiating a gay marriage. Democrats are hoping his defeat makes the district, which Trump won handily in 2016, more competitive.

Virginia does not register voters by party affiliation, so all voters were eligible to vote in primaries.

At the Hungary Creek Middle School in Glen Allen, outside Richmond, just a handful of voters turned up to vote early.

"I've never done absentee. We always come out to vote," said Cecil Painter, 79, a retired railroad conductor.

His wife, Shirley Painter, 78, a retired secretary, said she and her husband are concerned about the coronavirus, but wanted to come out and vote in person as they always do.

"I think we worry about it, but they say as long as we wear masks and wash our hands a lot we'll be OK," she said.

Inside the school, bottles of hand sanitizer were placed on every table and the ballot box. Signs instructed people to stand 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and each of the poll workers wore a mask, a face shield and gloves. Voters were given single-use pens to fill out their ballots.

In Mechanicsville, just north of Richmond, Tom Brummell, 61, a retired small-business owner, said he voted in person because he believes there is a potential for fraud with absentee ballots.

"It just opens the door to many things that can go wrong," he said, after voting at the Rural Point Elementary School.

At a precinct in McLean, by 10 a.m. only 19 voters had cast ballots at a polling station where only the GOP Senate race was on the ballot.

Chris Inglese, 62, of McLean, a self-employed CPA who described himself as a libertarian Republican, said he voted in part to familiarize himself with his precinct's new polling station. He voted for Thomas Speciale in the Senate primary in large part on the advice of a friend, something he said he doesn't normally do. He thinks the nominee will have a hard time in the general election against Warner.

In many ways, he viewed the primary as a warmup for November, which he said will be about “socialism versus capitalism.” He said that living in McLean, where so many people have become wealthy based on government contracts, “I know how corrupt socialism is.”

Associated Press reporter Matthew Barakat in McLean, Virginia, contributed to this report.