POLITICS
06/11/2019 21:44 EDT | Updated 06/12/2019 03:02 EDT

Top Virginia Democrat Survives Strong Progressive Challenge

Dick Saslaw, the state Senate Democratic leader, nearly lost his seat to progressive human rights attorney Yasmine Taeb.

The leader of Virginia’s state Senate Democrats survived an unexpectedly spirited progressive primary challenge on Tuesday, staving off a political earthquake.

Dick Saslaw, 79, who has served in the legislature since 1976, defeated Yasmine Taeb, 39, a progressive human rights attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee, by a narrow margin of just a few hundred votes. Karen Torrent, an attorney also running to Saslaw’s left, received more votes than Saslaw’s margin of victory.

Cliff Owen/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Virginia state Sen. Dick Saslaw has represented northern Virginia since 1976. He won a narrow victory thanks to outspending his progressive challenger 10 to 1.

With the backing of left-leaning groups like Our Revolution and the Democratic Socialists of America, Taeb argued that the northern Virginia district, which includes Falls Church as well as parts of Alexandria and Fairfax County, deserved a fresh voice capable of standing up to the state’s powerful utility monopolies and other corporations. 

But Saslaw, long one of the state’s top corporate fundraisers, outspent Taeb about 10 to 1, and he campaigned in person for his seat for the first time in decades.

Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, which raised money for several progressive candidates in Virginia, including Taeb, scolded large progressive groups for failing to provide Taeb with more financial assistance.

“Other than Data for Progress, very few national groups were taking this race seriously,” McElwee said.

CORRECTION: Due to an editorial error, a previous HuffPost article misstated the results of the election. That article has been redirected to this report.

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