HARRISONBURG — Jennifer Lewis will face Del. Ben Cline in November to represent the 6th Congressional District.
Lewis, 36, a Waynesboro-based mental health provider, bested three contenders for the Democratic nod Tuesday evening in the party’s primary. She won more than 47 percent of the vote, according to the Virginia Department of Elections’ unofficial results.
She handily defeated Peter Volosin, a regional planning consultant and Roanoke native; Charlotte Moore, who formerly served on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, and Sergio Coppola of Hinton, who formerly worked in information technology.
Volosin gathered more than 27 percent of the vote, while Moore and Coppola earned nearly 19 percent and nearly 7 percent, respectively.
Lewis said she was excited, humbled and speechless after her victory. “I can’t thank my supporters enough,” she said. “This is not a single-person win. This is a whole team effort, and I have a really kick-ass team that I’m super proud of, and I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Though Lewis won Tuesday evening, she faces an uphill battle to defeat Cline in the general election, given the district’s conservative makeup. Both will vie to replace U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who is retiring after 26 years in the House of Representatives.
The district includes Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, Augusta, Amherst, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Rockbridge and Warren counties, as well as part of Bedford and Roanoke counties. The district also includes Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Buena Vista, Lexington, Lynchburg and Roanoke.
Goodlatte won at least 60 percent of the vote in every election since first winning the seat in 1992.
Lewis said her campaign was a grass-roots effort and thinks her strategy of going door-to-door to reach as many voters as possible will yield a November victory as well.
“The ground game obviously worked for our race this time,” she said, “so I’m very confident that the ground game will work for us in the November election.”
Gary Tyeryar, 78, of Bridgewater, said he voted for Lewis because he thought she was a more compassionate candidate given her work in the mental health care sector.
“It doesn’t really matter to me what party a person’s with,” he said. “I’m more interested in whether I think from what they say that they have a broader interest in helping more people who need help.”
Sharon Kline, 78, of Bridgewater, said she voted for Lewis because of her work on environmental issues. Lewis founded Friends of Augusta, an Atlantic Coast Pipeline opposition group about four or five years ago.
“I’m a big proponent of environmental issues and global warming and things that affect our environment,” Kline said. “I hope that she would be cognizant of the fact that the EPA has gone down the tubes. That would be one of the things I would hope that she would stand for.”
Lewis believes there is some frustration on the Republican side, especially among voters whose property is being seized for pipelines in the district through the use of eminent domain.
She said she’s spent the last 11 years standing up for the working class, poor and disenfranchised, and plans to continue doing so in Washington, if elected. She wants those who are frustrated to give her a chance to prove she’s not a “crazy Democrat.”
“If you are sick of seeing people die because they don’t have health care,” she said, “if you’re sick of seeing water be polluted by big corporations, if you’re sick of people dying of opioid addiction, then you need to vote for me. ... People are sick of struggling and they’ve been struggling with Bob Goodlatte being their representative the last 25, 26 years.”
Turnout, as is the case in most primary elections, was sparse.
About 3.5 percent of active voters in the district turned out Tuesday, including about 6.3 percent in Harrisonburg and slightly more than 3 percent in the county, based on Virginia Department of Elections statistics.
Turnout was down compared to the only two 6th District primaries in which Goodlatte was challenged for the Republican nomination. In 2016, 4.7 percent of district voters turned out to the polls, and the 2012 primary, when 7.6 percent of voters across the district cast a ballot.
In 2016, only 2.5 percent voted in Harrisonburg and 6 percent in Rockingham County.
Lewis won Harrisonburg with more than 63 percent and Rockingham County with nearly 55 percent of the vote.
Of the 19 counties and cities in the 6th District, Lewis won all but Roanoke City, Roanoke County and Botetourt County.
“We’re ready to hit the ground starting tomorrow, but I’m so excited if I take these heels off I might start tonight.