Virginia GOP looks for rebound

By David Eldridge, The Washington Times

Republican Robert F. McDonnell’s victory in the Virginia governor’s race in November was one of the first signs of political trouble for President Obama and the Democrats. Virginia Republicans are now targeting a number of vulnerable House Democrats as the GOP holds its primary Tuesday.

Voters will choose from among a crowded slate of 19 contenders for the GOP nominations up for grabs Tuesday in five congressional districts: the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th and 11th.

The most hotly contested race – at least in terms of sheer numbers of candidates – is in the 5th, the state’s rural Southside, where Rep. Tom Perriello won a squeaker for his first term as a Democratic congressman in 2008.

Seven candidates, including state Sen. Robert Hurt of Pittsylvania, are vying for the GOP nod to take on Mr. Perriello, who backed the Obama health care law.

Mr. Hurt, the “establishment” candidate with name recognition and GOP backing in Washington and Richmond, could benefit from the other candidates splitting the “outsider” vote. In one sign of the potentially divisive impact the insider-outsider debate could have on the GOP this fall, one of Mr. Hurt’s opponents has threatened a third-party run if Mr. Hurt wins the nomination.

Other GOP leaders with something to lose Tuesday include Mr. McDonnell, who endorsed car dealer and friend E. Scott Rigell in the Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads area’s 2nd District race.

Mr. Rigell is a political newcomer facing a field of five other candidates – including several veterans – looking to advance to a fall showdown with another freshman Democrat, Rep. Glenn Nye.

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