Voter turnout in Salem was running highest at 3 p.m. in Salem’s most strongly Republican precincts, suggesting voters there favor returning Republican Ralph Smith to the state Senate over independent Brandon Bell in the 19th District.
Overall turnout was slightly more than 18 percent in the city that routinely backs Republicans, but was above 20 percent and as high as 23 percent in three precincts that most strongly went for Republicans in recent elections. Those precincts include: Beverly Heights, West Salem and Hidden Valley, which is the city’s largest precinct with 2,566 registered voters.
Smith is currently in his first term representing the 19th, but the redistricting process put his Botetourt County residence in the same district as fellow Republican Steve Newman. To seek a second term, Smith leased a Bent Mountain house from his campaign manager to establish residence in the re-drawn district, which now includes Salem.
Bell, who served two terms in the Senate as a Republican, was defeated for the Republican nomination by Smith four years ago and chose to challenge him this time around as an independent, but he’s received strong backing from state Democrats, including more than $200,000 in campaign funding.
The Senate race is the only contested race on the ballot in Salem. Republican Del. Greg Habeeb and Circuit Court Clerk Chance Crawford are running unopposed.
– Matt Chittum