VIRGINIA BEACH — State Del. Ron Villanueva defeated Bill Haley in a Republican primary to remain the party’s candidate in the 21st Virginia House District, which Villanueva has represented since 2010.
The next challenge he will face is from Democrat Kelly Fowler.
Villanueva and Fowler, a political newcomer, won their respective party primaries on Tuesday, June 13, according to unofficial returns.
Villanueva campaigned upon his track record as a delegate, as well as responding to coastal flooding, an issue that has become more pressing in the wake of this past year’s storms.
Haley, a proponent of limited government, cited school choice and and getting people off welfare as priorities.
Villanueva served for more than seven years on the Virginia Beach City Council. Though the district includes part of Chesapeake, roughly nine out of 10 voters live in Virginia Beach.
The incumbent earned about 58.7 percent of the vote on Tuesday with all precincts reporting, according unofficial state election returns.
“This was a tough one,” Villanueva told supporters at his campaign headquarters Tuesday. “In the 15 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had a primary.”
Telling supporters he would face Fowler, he added, “It’s going to be a tough battle.”
Villanueva has pushed back Democratic challenges before, though district voters have supported Democratic candidates in national and state races, according to an analysis of election returns by the Virginia Public Access Project.
The district went for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump last year, and Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee for governor this year, won 55 percent of the vote in the district during the 2013 lieutenant governor’s race.
Fowler’s race with fellow Democrat Tom Brock generated media attention due to past online statements by Brock, including comments described as racist and misogynist. The comments led the Virginia House Democratic Caucus to back Fowler and call for Brock to quit.
He didn’t back out, apologizing for some past comments, which he said did not reflect who he is today, and saying other comments described as racist were taken out of context.
Fowler defeated him soundly on Tuesday. Unofficial state election returns show she had nearly seven out of every 10 votes.
Fowler’s campaign did not return a call late Tuesday. In a statement emailed to reporters, Fowler said, “It is now time to turn our focus to November, and I will continue to work diligently to become your state delegate.”
She has cited sea level rise and flooding as major campaign concerns, as well as ensuring access to healthcare for Virginians.
Her statement to reporters also tied “Richmond Republicans” to President Trump.