Politics 2010: Virginia conservatives face challenge from right

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International

RICHMOND, Va., June 4 (UPI) -- Virginia Republicans have several sitting Democratic congressmen in their sights in November, but party squabbles may dash those hopes Tuesday, observers say.

In the 5th Congressional District, conservative choice Laurence Verga has been losing some steam -- and staffers -- as establishment favorite state Sen. Robert Hurt now is considered the likely winner, the Talking Points Memo Web site said. If Hurt emerges the winner, he would face incumbent freshman Rep. Tom Perriello.


But there could be some drama before November, several media outlets reported. Another conservative, Jeffrey Clark, says he'll make a third-party run if Hunt bests the six other Republican candidates.

Clark told the Lynchburg News and Advance he considers Hurt a "situational conservative."

While the district supported Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008, Perriello unseated Rep. Virgil Goode by a scant 727 votes out of more than 315,000 cast. His razor-thin margin is one reason why Republicans hope to reclaim the seat.

In the 1st Congressional District, Tea Party activists aren't backing Republican Rep. Rob Wittman -- considered a reliable conservative vote -- in his re-election bid, throwing their support to Realtor Catherine Crabill, The Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg recently reported.


Insiders said Crabill doesn't represent too much of a threat and probably will garner votes only from Tea Party activists, some of whom have indicated they oppose Wittman because he's a "career politician."

The victor in the Republican primary will face Democrat Krystal Ball, a political neophyte, who's running in one of Virginia's sturdiest Republican strongholds.

Establishment candidates haven't done well so far in this primary season, and political observers say they don't think Tuesday will be any different, The Hill reported recently, pointing to Virginia's 2nd Congressional District.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which saw five of its supported candidates already fail to win primaries, could lose again when committee-backed candidate Scott Rigell takes on Tea Party favorite Ben Loyola.

The winner takes on Rep. Glenn Nye, another top GOP target.

Rigell lost some of his GOP cred when it was revealed he donated $2,000 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign and his car dealerships received taxpayer funds through the "cash for clunkers" program, The Hill reported.

As with other states, whoever emerges from Virginia's party primary must reposition themselves to try to woo independents -- a task one strategist says Republicans could better handle.

"I believe it will be easier for Republicans to make that transition than Democrats because the Republican base does unify very, very quickly after a primary," Glen Bolger said. "Their eyes are on the prize of making it harder for Obama and (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid to pass their agenda."


Virginia's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, so far hasn't tipped his hand about which Democrat he prefers matching up against.

"I'm a conservative Republican and I believe at the federal level that conservative Republicans will serve our state and our nation the best," McDonnell told WVIR-TV, Charlottesville. "I've got the desire and obligation to help support our conservative Republican candidates."

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