White-Boyd Wins Democratic Primary To Face Suetterlein in Roanoke Valley Senate Race

Trish White-Boyd defeated Luke Priddy and "DA" Pierce to become the Democratic nominee facing Republican Sen. David Suetterlein in the fall.

Trish White-Boyd celebrates winning the District 4 primary election during her watch party at Tajzmah’s Lounge Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in Roanoke. PHOTO BY SCOTT P. YATES FOR THE ROANOKE RAMBLER

Trish White-Boyd defeated two opponents in a Democratic primary on Tuesday for a Roanoke and New River Valley state Senate district, becoming the party’s nominee to face Republican Sen. David Suetterlein in November’s general election.

White-Boyd, a Roanoke City Council member, took 57.3 percent of the vote out of 7,082 ballots counted as of 11 p.m., according to preliminary results from the Virginia Department of Elections.

Luke Priddy, also a member of Roanoke City Council, trailed with 37.7 percent of the vote, while DeAnthony “D.A.” Pierce finished a distant third with 4.9 percent.

“The big one dropped,” White-Boyd shouted at a watch party at TaJzmah's Lounge in Roanoke when asked how she felt after the delayed poll results from Roanoke City were released. “We feel victory.”

White-Boyd, 60, takes the Democratic reins from Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke, who announced in February he would not seek reelection to a freshly redistricted seat that would have had him competing with Suetterlein.

The district leans Republican and encompasses Roanoke, Salem, southern Roanoke County and eastern Montgomery County.

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White-Boyd won every locality. In Roanoke City, Priddy won precincts in the southwest quadrant, according to election night results.

Stakes are high in the Senate District 4 race, whose outcome could possibly play a role in whether Democrats or Republicans wield power in the upper legislative chamber.

Democrats narrowly control the Senate. Republicans have expressed confidence in their ability to keep the district in their column. Virginia elections forecaster Chaz Nuttycombe rates the district as “very likely Republican.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin won an estimated 55 percent of the newly drawn district’s vote in 2021 to Terry McAuliffe’s 45 percent, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. Since 2016, the only Democrat estimated to have won the district was Sen. Tim Kaine’s 2018 defeat of Corey Stewart, with 51 percent of the vote.

“We're really going to be hustling, working hard, trying to maintain the seat,” White-Boyd said Tuesday night. “It will be all hands on deck. And I'm looking for a lot of Republican support because there are a lot of issues that matter to Republicans, Democrats, independents. We're talking about issues that matter to everyday families.”

White-Boyd was the most established candidate of those running. In the months leading up to the primary, she had raised $28,842, compared to Priddy’s $14,250 and Pierce’s $1,174, according to campaign finance filings.

During the campaign, White-Boyd touted endorsements from Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, Roanoke Council members Vivian Sanchez-Jones and Peter Volosin and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, among other current and former local elected officials.

Trish White-Boyd celebrates winning the District 4 primary election during her watch party at Tajzmah’s Lounge Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in Roanoke. PHOTO BY SCOTT P. YATES FOR THE ROANOKE RAMBLER

Priddy, who serves as Edwards’s chief of staff, was backed by his boss.

Pierce, a first-time candidate, had few political connections.

Outside the Forest Park polling place in Northwest Roanoke, voter Carolyn Riles said she cast her ballot for White-Boyd, citing the candidate’s track record on City Council and work to help underserved parts of the city.

“She’s done a lot,” Riles said. “I felt good about her as a candidate. … She cares about the community, period.”

During the campaign, each Democratic candidate expressed similar policy positions, vowing to keep intact Virginia’s abortion access laws, impose new restrictions on firearms and invest more in public education.

The candidates never held a debate, and the race was a mostly low-key affair.

But White-Boyd and Priddy did spar at times as colleagues on City Council.

In April, Priddy issued a letter addressed to the city’s audit committee, which White-Boyd chairs, alleging she improperly led a discussion about auditing the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission in a closed City Council session, in violation of public meeting laws.

White-Boyd and other Council members denied the closed-door discussion broke the law. And they questioned why Priddy waited months after the private meeting to raise concerns.

She said Priddy’s actions “could be politically motivated,” which he denied.

White-Boyd, who lives in Roanoke’s Roundhill neighborhood, is the director of her own business, Blue Ridge Senior Services, an in-home caregiving company.

In 2016, White-Boyd narrowly lost a Roanoke City Council seat to independent John Garland, whose 2019 resignation prompted Council to appoint her to fill the unexpired term.

The following year, she won election with the most votes cast, making her vice mayor until January, when Joe Cobb’s reelection brought him that honorific title.

On Council, White-Boyd served as the inaugural chair of the city’s Equity and Empowerment Advisory Board, which was formed in 2020 to address systemic racism and other inequities in city codes and practices.

The board spearheaded the renaming of a downtown plaza, from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Roanoke native Henrietta Lacks. White-Boyd personally led a related effort to erect a statue of Lacks at the plaza and create a digital project on Roanoke’s Black history.

In 2013, White-Boyd ran for a House of Delegates seat, but lost in a Democratic nominating contest to now-Del. Sam Rasoul. White-Boyd entered Roanoke’s political scene back in 2008, when she served as an organizer for President Barack Obama’s campaign.

Freelance contributors Scott P. Yates and Alicia Petska provided reporting to this story.

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