According the Virginia Department of Elections, there are more than 5.5 million registered voters in the commonwealth, as of April 30. The odds are that only a tiny fraction of them will head to the polls tomorrow in various party primaries to select candidates for state and local offices.

That’s a shame.

Virginia is one of 19 states that doesn’t register voters by party. Party primaries are paid for state taxpayers and staffed by officials from the local registrars’ offices. No one will ask whether you’re a regular Democratic voter or Republican voter when you show up at the polls — that’s what it means when we say Virginia has an “open” primary.

This November in the general election, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 seats in the Virginia Senate will be up for grabs, in addition to a plethora of local elections. In many races, there are no announced candidates other than those seeking their parties’ nominations in today’s primaries.

One such contest is in our own backyard.

In the 15th District of the Virginia Senate, which includes more than half of Campbell County, incumbent Republican Frank Ruff is facing a challenge from the right from political newcomer Dale Sturdifen.

Ruff has represented the district since winning election in November 1999 and is seeking his fifth, four-year term. A powerful legislator, he serves on the budget-writing Finance Committee and is a budget conferee, one of six legislators who hammer out the final state budget. Sturdifen is a former Virginia State Trooper and Marine Corps veteran of Operation Desert Storm who says the district deserves a more solid conservative as its representative in Richmond.

There is no announced Democratic candidate for the November election, which means whoever wins today’s primary contest likely will be the next senator in the General Assembly.

In the 23rd District of the House of Delegates, which includes parts of Lynchburg and Bedford and Amherst counties, three men are vying for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Del. Scott Garrett:

» Turner Perrow has served 11 years on Lynchburg City Council. A lifelong resident of Central Virginia, he’s a Virginia Military Institute-educated engineer and longtime member of the Lynchburg City Republican Party.

» Wendell Walker has been in fixture in GOP circles for decades. He’s served as chairman of the Lynchburg party and as chairman of the Sixth Congressional District Republican Committee. He’s making his first bid for elected office.

» Ron Berman is a Forest businessman who’s made his total opposition to abortion and the state’s Medicaid expansion key elements of his campaign. This is his first bid for elected office, too.

The Republican nominee will face off against political newcomer David Zilles of Lynchburg, the Democratic Party nominee, in November.

There is also a hotly contested local race on the ballot, too. In heavily Republican Bedford County, three men — Mike Miller, Kent Robey and David Wells — are seeking their party’s nomination for the county sheriff’s post. The victor today will face a Democratic and an independent candidate in November.

Folks, these offices are important and directly affect the lives of everyday Virginians. We urge you to exercise your right to vote, especially in those races that likely will be unopposed in November. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Vote!

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