Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Retirements Open Door for New Virginia Candidates

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Moran, left, and Wolf are both retiring at the end of this session.

Virginia’s proximity to Capitol Hill makes a seat in Congress a desirable landing spot for politicians in the Old Dominion State. As a result, many of Virginia’s members of Congress stick around for a long time.

But prime northern Virginia House seats came open this cycle when two of the longest-serving members of the delegation — Reps. James P. Moran, a Democrat, and Frank R. Wolf, a Republican — announced their retirements.

The rest of the delegation is either entrenched in leadership or only a few terms into their tenures, making congressional dreams seem distant for hopefuls from the commonwealth.

The next opportunities in Virginia now hinge on freshman Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine’s future plans.

Kaine is not up for re-election until 2018. Republicans say a number of GOP candidates with statewide appeal could look to run against him that year.

“We have a big bench, it’s just a question of who steps forward,” said Jeff Ryer, a spokesman for the state Senate Republican Caucus.

Potential candidates include:

State Sen. Mark Obenshain, who lost a race for Virginia attorney general in 2013 by a few hundred votes after a recount.

State Del. Benjamin Cline, who considered a bid against Democratic Sen. Mark Warner this cycle but decided against it when former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie entered the race.

State Sen. Jeff McWaters, whose district includes part of Virginia Beach. McWaters founded the health insurance company Amerigroup, and has the ability to self-fund a campaign.

State Del. Barbara Comstock, the current front-runner in the race to replace Wolf in Virginia’s 10th District. Republicans say if Comstock wins in November, she would have a strong profile to run for Senate in 2018. She helped with Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign in the state, though he lost Virginia to President Barack Obama by nearly 4 points.

State Sen. Bryce Reeves, a legislator from the Fredericksburg area, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Members of the congressional delegation could also look to run statewide. They include GOP Reps. Scott Rigell in the 2nd District and J. Randy Forbes in the 4th District. If either runs for Senate, it would open up their House seats.

In that case, McWaters could run for Rigell’s seat, Republicans say. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Lynwood Lewis, a longtime House delegate who won his state Senate seat in a razor-thin 2013 contest after a recount, could also look to run in an open 2nd District contest.

Potential Forbes successors from the Republican bench include state Del. M. Kirkland Cox, who currently serves as majority leader, and state Sen. John Cosgrove.

For Democratic hopefuls, opportunities will be slim. Moran’s retirement provided a prime opportunity to ascend the political ranks, with many local politicians jumping at the chance.

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