Incumbent state Sen. Frank Ruff cruised to an easy victory over challenger Dale Sturdifen in the 15th Senate district primary Tuesday. He will face off against Democratic challenger Virginia Smith on Nov. 5.
“I am pleased with the result,” Ruff, of Clarksville, said Tuesday evening. “I think the voters looked at the two candidates and realized I was a proven conservative. I’m delighted to be able to serve the people of Southside Virginia for the next four years.”
With 122 of 132 precincts reporting in the 15th district Tuesday evening, Ruff, who was first elected in 2000, was ahead by nearly 60 percentage points — 79.02% (7,604 votes) to 20.98% (2,019 votes) over Sturdifen.
“I wish him the best of luck in the November election,” Sturdifen, of Clarksville, said when reached by the Danville Register & Bee. “The people deserve an option; they had an option this year and Frank’s been there for a while.”
As for whether Sturdifen will run for office again, he said, “We’ll see what the future holds.”
Ruff won by even wider margins in Danville and Pittsylvania County.
In the city, which had only two precincts eligible to vote in the 15th district, 94.22% of voters (261) cast their ballots for Ruff. Sturdifen had just 5.78% (16 votes).
Voter turnout for those two precincts was 6.8%, Danville Registrar Peggy Petty said. That’s higher than past June primaries because voting took place at only two precincts that happen to have higher participation in most Republican primaries and general elections, she said.
They included about 4,000 registered voters.
June primaries have been notoriously low when it comes to voter turnout, Petty said.
The June 2012 primary for the U.S. Senate, in which George Allen, E.W. Jackson, Jamie Radtke and Bob Marshall battled it for the Republican candidacy in the general election, yielded just 3.6% turnout in Danville, Petty said.
Just last year, only 3.5% of registered voters in the city showed up at the polls for the U.S. Senate Republican primary that included Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas and Jackson.
However, the June 2001 Democratic primary for Virginia’s attorney general and lieutenant governor attracted 25.3% of registered city voters. But that was because Danville’s Whitt Clement was running for attorney general, Petty said.
“It’s always a low turnout unless it’s a local person [running],” Petty said.
Twenty-six of 29 precincts in Pittsylvania County were eligible to vote in the primary. Ruff garnered 1,341 votes (92.48%) to Sturdifen’s 109 votes (7.52%) in the county.
County participation among eligible registered voters was 4% to 5%, said County Registrar Kelly Bailess.
About 31,000 out of 43,000 registered county voters were eligible to vote in the primary Tuesday.
In Danville, voter Jack Glasgow lamented the dismal voter turnout expected in Tuesday’s Republican primary for the 15th state Senate district seat.
“I believe that the people need to vote and I’m not surprised, but disappointed, more people aren’t here,” Glasgow said just after casting his ballot Tuesday at Coates Recreation Center in Danville.
Glasgow, however, would not reveal whether he picked incumbent Sen. Frank Ruff or challenger Dale Sturdifen.
The 15th Senate district includes parts of Danville and Pittsylvania County, as well as portions of Halifax, Campbell, Brunswick, Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.
The district also contains all of Mecklenburg, Charlotte, Lunenburg and Nottoway counties.
At the Park Avenue precinct in Danville, only about 35 voters had turned out by 11 a.m. Over at Coates Recreation Center, Precinct Chief Brenda Rowland said 67 voters had participated by late morning. Polls opened at 6.
It’s a typical situation for a primary, said Park Avenue Precinct Chief David Torborg.
“It’s just the way they are,” Torborg said. “The really dedicated Republicans and Democrats are the ones who will come out and vote.”
Park Avenue voter Harold Garrison would not say who he voted for, but added that he votes in every election.
“It’s something I think everyone should do that’s eligible to vote,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t vote. If I don’t vote, I can’t complain, right?”
Judy Adkins said she chose Ruff.
“He’s done a good job, so why change?” Adkins said just after voting at Park Avenue precinct.
Like Garrison, she never misses an election.
“I vote in all of them,” Adkins said.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.