HARRISONBURG — Two primaries hit the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County area Tuesday, but what left the area was low turnout and confused voters.
Cathy Copeland, 39, of Harrisonburg, and Brent Finnegan, 40, of Broadway, are seeking the Democratic nomination for the 26th District House seat. Both candidates have raced against one another before, seeking the nomination in 2017.
The nominee will face Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, during the November election.
Emmett Hanger, 70, of Mount Solon, is being challenged for the Republican nomination for the 24th Senatorial District by Tina Freitas, 40, of Culpeper.
Hanger has held the Senate seat since 1996. Prior to that, he served in the House of Delegates when he was first appointed in 1983, when Freitas was 4 years old.
With over 40,000 registered voters in Rockingham County, turnout to the 26 precincts was slim to almost none.
The Democratic primary locations constantly spoke with voters also expecting to be able to support either Hanger or Freitas, but were turned away due to not being residents of the 24th Senate District.
“I have researched Freitas and Hanger for days and a month now,” said Faye Wampler, a Dayton resident who was expecting to be able to vote in the Republican primary.
“Now I don’t have to worry,” she said with a laugh.
Dayton is in the 26th Senate District, represented by Republican Mark Obenshain.
Dayton, with 1,121 registered voters, had 53 votes cast before 3:30 p.m. Similarly slim percentages of registered voters also had cast ballots in Singers Glen, which stood at 46 out of 1,497 shortly after 4 p.m.
Even in Finnegan’s home precinct of Broadway, only 85 voters showed up to participate in the Democratic primary out of 2,557 registered voters assigned to the precinct at 4:30 p.m.
Jim Henderson, of Broadway, showed up to support Finnegan, who grew up across the road from him.
“[Universal] health care is my biggest concern,” he said. “If other countries can do it, we oughta be able to do it.”
The city saw more voters, but similar percentages. For instance, polling place Keister Elementary had 241 votes out of 3,314 and Stone Spring Elementary saw less than 150 out of 3,701 at 5:30 p.m.
Many precinct officials described the day as slow, but also expected voting to pick up after 5 p.m., as potential voters got out of work.
“It’s been worse,” said Mary Monts, an official at Stone Spring.
In the 26th District’s smallest precinct, Bridgewater West, more people had shown up to vote in the Republican primary than were even eligible to vote at the location.
Bridgewater West of the 26th District only included 41 registered voters, two of which had cast votes by 3 p.m., making for a reasonable percentage compared with other precincts. Officials at the precinct said they had to tell more than 110 Republican voters that there was not an election in which they could participate.
Elly Lafkin, a volunteer with Hanger’s campaign, started her morning greeting voters at precinct 505 at the McGaheysville Volunteer Fire Company.
According to the Rockingham County Registrar’s Office, there are 2,100 registered voters in precinct 505. Lafkin said that by around noon, the number of voters coming out was a “two-digit number.”
Lafkin later visited precinct 501 at the Elkton Community Center after 1 p.m., where she was greeted with a handwritten sign created by a Freitas supporter.
The sign included three quotes: “Emmett is noted for saying one thing then voting differently,” said Doc Troxel; “6th District Committee went to court to defeat Hanger,” from the Incumbent Protection Act; and “Dems don’t run against Emmett because he votes Democrat 80%,” said the Virginia Democrat (sic) Party in 2015.
Rick Mondale, of Elkton, said he had been standing outside of the Elkton Community Center since 8 a.m. showing voters his sign.
“Hanger is extremely powerful and very formidable,” Mondale said. “Hanger is a sweetheart, but noted for saying one thing and voting another.”
Mondale said precinct 501 is “solidly anti-Hanger,” but noted that he had only seen roughly 150 voters from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Precinct 501 has 1,908 registered voters, according to the Rockingham County Registrar’s Office.
Despite is support for Freitas, Mondale said it was likely Hanger will keep his seat.
“Hanger probably will win, but he should be challenged,” Mondale said.
Closer to the city at precinct 307, voters were greeted by Emmett’s wife, Sharon Hanger, and his grandson, Tyler.
Volunteers with Freitas’ campaign were present, but declined to comment.
Sharon Hanger said that since 8 a.m., roughly 255 voters had turned out in a precinct with 2,807 registered voters.
“We had hoped for more,” she said.
Sharon Hanger and her family have worked campaigns before, but said this campaign had been different.
“It has been so stressful and difficult to deal with,” Sharon Hanger said. “The dishonesty and lies. ... We had to deal with the attacks on him.”
The Rockingham County Registrar’s Office has been posting unofficial voting results online since 10 a.m. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., only 4,826 voters out of 41,574 had cast a ballot. Of the 4,826 ballots, 1,078 were for the Democratic primary and 3,748 were for the Republican primary.