2009’s Virginia election hasn’t even happened yet … but … 2010’s Congressional election already looms on the horizon … it comes as little surprise to me that the GOP is targeting the three seats that had been held by Republicans until Democratic victories in 2008 … Glenn Nye in VA-02, Tom Perriello in VA-05, and Gerry Connolly in VA-11 … Southern Political Report covers the races in the following article …
By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report
March 16, 2009 —
Virginia was one of the first states in the South to move toward the GOP, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. In the past few years, it has become one of the first in Dixie’s new Solid Republican South to move back toward the Democratic Party. This trend was very apparent in 2008, when Barack Obama not only carried the state, but when Democrats also won three new congressional seats, defeating two Republican incumbents and picking up an open GOP-held seat.
The state’s Republican politicos are not yet tightly focused on the 2010 elections, mainly because this November, Virginia voters will choose a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, as well as state legislators. Once these elections have been held, more congressional candidates may begin to surface. However, if last year’s GOP nominees choose to run again, the state Republican Party will defer to them.
In the meantime, a number of GOPers are looking at the races and hopeful that 2010 will witness a counterreformation in the Old Dominion. Former US Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), tells SPR that several factors that helped Democrats in Virginia last year will not be present next year, including “a lot of anti-Bush sentiment and a huge African-American turnout” to support Obama.
“The Democrats don’t recognize how much they owe to Bush,” says Davis. “The Republicans are still in the trash can, but in some of these districts with a Republican history, the Democratic energy has gone” since last November. He cites the unexpectedly strong GOP showings in two special elections for local offices in the 11th District earlier this year. He adds tha t “Obama will be owning the economy a year from now.” Finally, Davis believes the GOP’s Bob McDonnell, who is already running a centrist campaign, may well win the Virginia governor’s race this fall, giving the Republicans additional muscle in 2010. Details:
2nd District (Virginia Beach, etc.) Freshman Glenn Nye (D) eked out a 52% majority over two-termUS Rep. Thelma Drake (R) last year and is a top GOP target in 2010. Nye will be hit for supporting Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan, but he made points in the district for opposing transferring anyGuantanamo inmates to any Virginia facilities. Drake is considering running again next year, but has not made a decision. The only GOPer who is in the race at this point is Chuck Smith, an attorney, former chairman of the Virginia Beach Republican Party, and, as an African-American, chairman of the state GOP’s Ethnic Outreach program. His experience as a former marine and in the Navy JAG will be a plus in this Navy-heavy area.
Other Republicans considering the race or getting mentioned include state Sen. Ken Stolle, a moderate who ran for attorney general in 1997. Stolle, who was a Virginia Beach policeman for eleven years, is also looking at the sheriff’s race if the incumbent retires. Jeff McWaters, retired CEO of Amerigroup, a healthcare company, and a financial backer of the GOP, has been mentioned for the race. Virginia Beach Mayor — and bank president — Will Sessoms and Virginia Beach City Councilman Ron Villanueva, who ran a ship repair firm, are also on the list of potential candidates. Villanueva is a Filipino, which could appeal to Virginia Beach’s significant minority of Filipino-Americans.
5th District (Charlottesville, etc.) Freshman Tom Perriello (D) won by an eyelash (50.01%), a victory confirmed by a recount. A liberal by Virginia standards, Perriello is likely to face a strong GOP attack in this conservative district (McCain carried it). Sixth-term US Rep. Virgil Goode (R) whom Perriello defeated last year is considering running again. At year’s end, he still had $166,000 in his campaign kitty, which would give him a good start. Other possible candidates include state Sen. Robert Hurt from the Danville area; former state Sen. Brandon Bell, who lost his seat in a primary in 2007; and state Del. Rob Bell, a former prosecutor. Although Perriello voted to delay consideration of Obama’s stimulus plan, he voted for it on final passage and is catching some flak from the NRCC via TV spots.Davis notes that the high turn-out of pro-Obama students and faculty at the University of Virginia inCharlottesville will likely be reduced in 2010 and adds that the 5th District will be one of the top ten Republican targets next year.
11th District (Fairfax County, etc.) Last year freshman Gerald Connolly (D) won an open seat — previously held by Davis for 14 years — against well-funded businessman Keith Fimian (R) by 53% to 45%. The district is made up of suburbs of Washington, DC, and has been moving toward the Democrats in recent years. Reflecting the more liberal cast of his constituents, many of whom work for the federal government, Connolly has praised Obama’s stimulus package, which he supported. Fimian plans to run again and will be well-funded again. In addition, several other Republicans are also looking at the race or are getting mentioned. Rocky Johnson, CEO of a homeland security company as well as formerly with the Secret Service and the CIA, is considering the race. Pat Herrity, a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the son of a popular former local political figure, and state Sen. Tim Hugo are also getting mentioned for the race. Earlier this year, Herrity came close to winning the special election to replace Connolly as chairman of the Fairfax County Board.
“People have misread Northern Virginia,” says Davis. “People were just anti-Bush. With Bush out of office, it takes the sting out of the Republican label.”
Another factor that could help the GOP is that the 11th District is ranked among the top ten districts in the nation in terms of per capita income. If Obama’s tax increases take a bite out of a number of pay checks here, a backlash could occur. On the other hand, if the economy is recovering, Obama and his party may get the credit.