GOP Sees No Threat in Va. Seat

Posted August 31, 2004 at 5:25pm

One day after the abrupt retirement announcement of Rep. Ed Schrock (R-Va.), both parties sought to regroup as 2nd district Republicans chose state Del. Thelma Drake as his replacement.

Just hours after Schrock’s announcement, Drake emerged as the leading Republican to replace him on the ballot. State Sen. Ken Stolle (R) also expressed interest but eventually backed away once it was clear Drake had garnered wide support.

At a briefing Tuesday for reporters at the Republican National Convention, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) said that he is confident his party will retain control of the Tidewater area seat regardless of who emerges as the GOP nominee.

“It’s a great seat,” said Reynolds. “It will very easily go Republican. … Whoever they give me as a candidate, they’re going to be in Congress.”

Republicans in the 2nd district met Tuesday night and picked Drake.

Schrock announced Monday that he would not seek a third term due to unspecified allegations against him.

Schrock did not address what the allegations are in his statement, but a Washington, D.C.-based gay rights activist recently claimed on a Web site that Schrock has engaged in homosexual activity. The only proof he has offered to back up his claim is a dating service recording of a man he says is Schrock seeking an encounter with another man.

The Web site sponsors say they set it up to out gay Members — or gay staffers of Members — who favor a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

“After much thought and prayer, I have come to the realization that these allegations will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and region,” Schrock said in a statement.

Drake, first elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 1996, represents parts of Norfolk. The Congressional district is home to the country’s largest Naval base as well as several other military installations.

Although the demographics of the seat favor Republicans, Schrock won a closer-than-expected 52 percent to 48 percent victory in the race to succeed Rep. Owen Pickett (D-Va.) in 2000. The retired Navy captain and former state Senator had no Democratic opposition in his first bid for re-election, winning 83 percent of the vote in 2002.

While Reynolds shrugged off the notion that the race to succeed Schrock could be competitive, Democrats said that they intend to vigorously contest the seat and argued that their nominee is strong enough to win an open-seat race. The Democratic nominee is David Ashe, a Marine reservist who served six months in Iraq before leaving active duty in November 2003.

“We’ve got a very good chance of winning this race,” said Greg Speed, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “David Ashe is a strong fit for the district with his background as an Iraq war veteran. He’s assembled a very good campaign team. He has the strong support of Congressman Pickett and this has become a very interesting race.”

Ashe, 36, is using many of the same consultants who worked for Pickett, the seven-term former Congressman.

Schrock is the 31st Member this cycle to announce he will not return to the 109th Congress and he is the third Member to be replaced on the ballot after winning the nomination.