State Del. Barbara Comstock announced on Tuesday that she will vie for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., in the competitive 10th District.
Comstock marks the first Republican to officially announce a bid for the seat, which operatives from both parties say will be a battleground in 2014. They also say Comstock, who was first elected to the state House in 2010, had been positioning herself to run for Congress if the 17-term congressman called it quits.
State Sen. Dick Black, an outspoken social conservative, announced he was forming an exploratory committee the day of Wolf's retirement, but he has yet to officially jump into the race. Other Republicans are also considering bids, including state Rep. Tim Hugo and businessman Keith Fimian, Republican operatives said.
It's still unclear whether Republicans will pick their nominee via a convention or primary. In Virginia, state parties can decide how to choose their nominees.
Republicans gripe that conventions, which attract the most conservative members of the party as voting delegates, often pick candidates that don't appeal to the broader electorate. This fall, the GOP's controversial nominee for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson, was selected via a nominating convention.
The Virginia GOP has yet to vote on the nominating route, yet Republicans in the state fear a convention could select a candidate such as Black, who was known for making controversial statements in the legislature.
Republicans say a candidate too far to the right could hurt their chances of keeping the seat. The district, located in the Northern Virginia suburbs, voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by a slim 1-point margin in 2012, making it one of the most competitive districts in the state.
The party has until Jan. 23 to decide on the nominating method.
On the Democratic side, party officials described three strong candidate prospects: Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, attorney Richard Bolger and college professor Karen Schultz. Architect Sam Kubba and Iraq War veteran David Wroblewski are also competing for the Democratic nod.
Virginia's 10th District is rated a Lean Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.