Virginia: It’s Wittman Vs. Forgit in Special to Replace Davis
State Del. Rob Wittman (R) and military veteran and former state delegate candidate Philip Forgit (D) now have a four-week sprint to a December special election after they were selected over the weekend to be their respective party’s nominees in the 1st Congressional district.
Wittman begins the short campaign period as the hands-down favorite in the heavily Republican district that was held by the late Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R) until she died of breast cancer in early October. But citing the uncertainty that comes with any special election, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) was cautiously optimistic in a statement released this weekend.
“Virginia’s First Congressional District has performed well for Republicans in the past, but if the Massachusetts special election [in October] taught us anything, it is that both Democrats and Republicans should always be prepared to compete in this environment,” Cole said in the statement.
Wittman emerged from a crowded field of 11 candidates at Saturday’s nominating convention after six rounds of balloting. Wittman only was able to secure his victory over wealthy businessman Paul Jost (R) after Chuck Davis, the Congresswoman’s widower who also was running for the seat, threw his support to the state delegate.
Forgit entered the Democratic convention as the frontrunner and has said he hoped to gain momentum from his party’s gains in the state legislative elections last week, which gave Democrats control of the state Senate for the first time in a dozen years.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s huge financial advantage over the NRCC, coupled with Forgit’s status as a veteran in a heavy military district, may tempt national Democrats to play for a seat they usually would not attempt to compete for.
“We think Phil Forgit is a very strong candidate,” DCCC spokeswoman Kyra Jennings said. “Obviously it’s a conservative district, but he has strong qualities including his military service and his connections to the community as a pubic teacher which will allow him to run a competitive campaign in this race.”
Jennings declined to say whether the DCCC will be dropping money into the Dec. 11 special election.
— John McArdle
Attorney Hopes to Build on Last Week’s Results
Another Virginia Democrat hoping to build momentum from the party’s gains in the statewide legislative elections last week is Tom Perriello, who is challenging Rep. Virgil Goode (R) in the 5th district.
“Virginians sent a clear signal — they want a change, and believe Democrats can bring that change,” Perriello said in a statement last week. “I am running for Congress because Virginians in the Fifth District are ready for the kind of principled leadership and results in Congress that they have enjoyed from Governors [Mark] Warner [D] and [Tim] Kaine [D] at the state level.”
Perriello is an attorney who is known for his work in founding and helped to launch several nonprofit groups. After opening a campaign committee in September, Perriello outraised Goode in the third quarter, although Goode reported having more than three times Perriello’s $111,000 in cash on hand.
Although the district contains the liberal enclave of Charlottesville, it went to President Bush in 2004 by 13 points. Goode beat Al Weed in the 2006 race by 19 points, spending more than $1 million on the campaign to Weed’s $578,000.
According to a Democratic source, Perriello is the only Democratic candidate from the 5th district to have met with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials this year.
— John McArdle