Sen. Robert Hurt is joining the fray for the Republican nomination in the 5th CD. He’s the sixth candidate to enter the race to challenge Rep. Tom Perriello, and enters as the clear leader. Hurt only advanced to the senate last election, and before that served in the house since 2002. He’s never really distinguished himself in the legislature, and he’s also never made an ass of himself—like most legislators, he’s just a guy who has reliably shown up and done the work that needs doing.
Prior to Hurt’s unsurprising entrance, the leader was surely Albemarle County Board of Supervisors member (and my supervisor) Ken Boyd. Which isn’t saying much—BoS to U.S. House is a big leap, and being a member of a county BoS does nothing to lay the groundwork for running for a House race. But unlike his largely unknown opponents, Boyd has successfully run for office (twice) and knows what it is to serve in office. Hurt obviously ups the ante, having served in the highest legislative office one could serve in short of U.S. House. Also, Hurt is the only candidate from Southside, assuming one ignores the too-sad-to-be-a-parody campaign run by Bradley Rees, which is the rational thing to do. (Though I’d blithely asserted that Perriello couldn’t win last year, being from the north end of the district. Obviously that wasn’t true.) Hurt’s current and prior districts combine to include about a quarter of the geographic range of the 5th, which is a significant advantage not to be ignored.
No doubt, Hurt is the strongest candidate, and he’s the only guy in this race that makes me wonder if Perriello could have some trouble next year.
But, never fear, Virginian Republicans’ instinct towards self destruction is kicking in already. Brian McNeill explains:
One possible problem for Hurt’s candidacy is that he voted in favor of a $1.4 billion tax increase in 2004 that closed a gap in Virginia’s budget that threatened the state’s AAA bond rating and increased spending on education, public safety and mental health services.
The tax increase has been a sore spot for the Republican rank-and-file ever since. The issue has come up, for example, in this year’s gubernatorial race between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat R. Creigh Deeds. McDonnell has criticized Deeds for backing the 2004 vote, saying it was the largest tax increase in Virginia’s history — and unnecessary.
“People have long memories, especially of such a difficult time politically,” said Keith Drake, a former Albemarle County GOP chairman and leader of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance. “[Hurt] was on the wrong side of that vote.”
(God love Keith Drake. That man is the greatest gift to Albemarle Democrats in my lifetime.) Is it possible that Republicans could be so thick-headed as to nominate an ideologically pure candidate rather than one that can win? Absolutely.
Let’s see if any candidates drop out with Hurt’s entrance into the race. Unless Ken Boyd has the fervent backing of the fringe right in Albemarle County, his hand may have been trumped in this race, and I think it would be sensible for him to pack it in. I’m not sure that most of these folks have the sense to realize that they’re probably licked.