RICHMOND, Va. -- State Sen. Robert Hurt's easy primary victory on Tuesday means he'll face a first-term Democratic incumbent tied closely to President Obama and a conservative independent this fall in Virginia's 5th District.
And in a day of tepid turnouts in five Virginia Republican congressional primaries, the lone GOP House member to face opposition, Rep. Rob Wittman, easily brushed aside a challenge from the right in Catherine Crabill.
In the 11th District, Keith Fimian won the GOP primary to reprise his unsuccessful 2008 race against freshman Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly.
And in the 8th District, Patrick Murray won a tight race over Matthew Berry in a battle between two Republican newcomers. Murray faces 10-term Democratic Rep. Jim Moran in the heavily Democratic Washington, D.C., suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria.
There were no Democratic primaries, and other GOP nominations were decided in district conventions.
Hurt took nearly half the votes cast in a seven-way primary. But his victory sets up the most nationally significant Virginia race this fall. Hurt, the established GOP candidate, takes on a clear Obama proxy in Perriello whom conservatives have sworn to unseat because of his fealty to Obama's health reform and clean energy bills.
Hurt, 40, who has served in either the Virginia House or Senate since 2002, entered the race with superior fundraising and a Senate district that spanned one-fifth of the central and Southside Virginia congressional district.
But Hurt's victory also brings into the fall race independent Jeff Clark, who will run to his right, a prospect that GOP strategists fear because Clark could drain enough conservative support from Hurt to give Perriello plurality and a second term.
"In the last eight months that we traveled across the 5th District, we picked up support in all quarters -- among Republicans, among independents, and we picked up support among folks who identify themselves as tea party people," Hurt told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Wittman won 88 percent of the vote over Crabill, who lost a state legislative race last year after exhorting supporters to bring about change "at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box."
Rigell won a six-candidate contest with nearly 40 percent of the vote in 2nd District, which takes in most of Hampton Roads, including Virginia Beach. Rigell enjoyed not only a fundraising edge, but had the only endorsement that the popular McDonnell made in this year's primaries.
In the 11th District, Fimian won 57 percent of the vote over Fairfax County Board of Supervisors member Patrick Herrity.
Registrars key localities in districts with two of the hottest races described the turnout as "rather low" and "not overwhelming."
Turnout totals ranged from nearly 2 percent to just short of 6 percent, according to data from the State Board of Elections Web site.
And in the hub of the 2nd Congressional District, Virginia Beach, turnout was similarly scant. Registrar Edith M. "Pat" Harrington said an afternoon survey of her city's precincts ranged from a 1.5 percent turnout to a high of 8.6 percent.