Some voters discount blackface scandal

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Some Virginia primary voters say they forgive the state's governor for a blackface scandal, and don't think he will be a drag on Democrats in statehouse elections.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam isn't on Tuesday's ballot for legislative primaries. But a racist yearbook photo that surfaced in February and almost forced Northam from office is on voters' minds as they consider contests for all 140 seats in the legislature.

Gail Parker-Coefield is an African-American voter in Virginia Beach. She says she has forgiven Northam for the scandal and believes it's now a non-issue.

Melvin Washington cast a ballot in a Richmond-area Democratic primary. He said the scandal might affect Democrats in a small way come November, but he doesn't think it will make a big difference.

The highly charged legislative primary elections are being closely watched as a possible political barometer for the coming presidential election year.

Tuesday's statewide primary contests feature plenty of drama as moderates in both parties take fire from their parties' outer flanks. The stakes are high: All 140 legislative seats are up for grabs this year and Virginia is the only state whose legislature has a reasonable chance of flipping partisan control.

Republicans currently have narrow majorities in both the House and Senate.

Several Democratic incumbents are being challenged by liberal newcomers. On the GOP side, lingering resentment over last year's vote to expand Medicaid is helping fuel unusually divisive primary contests.