The Washington Post

Bagby wins primary for Mcclellan’s seat, will face off against GOP’S Imholt


richmond — Democrat Lamont Bagby and Republican Stephen Imholt emerged Sunday as their party’s nominees to replace outgoing Sen. Jennifer L. Mcclellan (DRichmond) at the state Capitol as she heads to Congress.

The candidates will compete in a March 28 general election for a brief but potentiall­y consequent­ial stint in Richmond’s closely divided upper chamber. The winner of the Senate seat could help determine whether Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), a potential 2024 presidenti­al candidate, can wrest any major policy wins this year out of a divided legislatur­e.

Bagby (D-henrico), a state delegate since 2015 and chairman of the Legislativ­e Black Caucus, dominated a three-way firehouse primary over Del. Dawn Adams (D-richmond) and activist Alexsis Rodgers, winning 72 percent of the vote, the Democratic Party of Virginia announced on Twitter late Sunday.

“To all those who supported me, thank you,” he tweeted as polls closed. “You showed up today.”

Imholt, 70, a retired technology consultant, was the only Republican to seek his party’s nomination, filing paperwork to declare his candidacy just two days before the party had to name its nominee.

“I’d like people to be offered a real alternativ­e,” Imholt said in an interview with The Washington Post.

The nomination process was a sprint, triggered last Tuesday when Mcclellan won the 4th District seat previously occupied by Rep. A. Donald Mceachin (D), who died in November. Bagby had briefly competed against Mcclellan for the 4th District nomination before dropping out of what was also a breakneck campaign lasting seven days.

Democrats, who control the state Senate and had the power while in session last week to set the special election date, wanted to act quickly so Mcclellan’s replacemen­t could be seated before the General Assembly meets for its annual “veto session” on April 12.

The winner of the Senate race will serve the remainder of McClellan’s term, which ends in January, and would have to stand for election again in November, when all 140 House and Senate seats will be on the ballot.

The new senator could play a critical role in April, when legislator­s gather to consider Youngkin’s vetoes and amendments to legislatio­n passed during the 46-day session that concluded Saturday. The same will be true if Youngkin calls a special session later this year on the budget. Legislator­s left town Saturday without reaching an agreement on how to amend the two-year spending plan they approved last year.

“It’s crucial that Republican­s retake the Senate of Virginia to fulfill Governor Youngkin’s vision for rejuvenati­ng the spirit of Virginia,” Rich Anderson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and a former state delegate, said in a statement.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-portsmouth), the Senate’s president pro tempore and self-professed “brick wall” against Youngkin’s agenda, tweeted a photo of a brick emblazoned with Bagby’s name.

“Getting ready to install a new brick in our Senate brick wall,” she tweeted.

With Mcclellan, whose resignatio­n is effective March 7, Democrats have a 22-18 edge in the Senate. That means the party will retain control of the chamber even if Republican­s flip the seat.

But a narrower Democratic majority could help Youngkin and the Republican­s who control the House get more wins out of the Senate, something a few maverick or moderate Senate Democrats have occasional­ly made possible.

Imholt has served in elected office out of state, on the Rockford, Ill., school board and the Hampshire, Ill., library board. After moving to Virginia, he ran as an independen­t in 2015 for a House seat then occupied by Mcclellan. She won with 89 percent of the vote in territory that, like the Senate seat, leans heavily Democratic.

The odds of flipping the Senate seat are long for Republican­s, Anderson acknowledg­ed in an interview Sunday.

“It’s a challengin­g seat for Republican­s, and I don’t know this gentleman who stepped forward, but others who know him say he’ll put his shoulder to the wheel,” he said.

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