May 19th is the primary for the 28th Senate District, and I usually try to make predictions in these races based on the buzz I’ve been hearing. Since I’m somewhat removed from the 28th District my intel on this race is a little thinner than usual, but I’m going to charge ahead regardless and give folks a picture of what I think is going on. Tonight’s candidate forum has a little potential to mix things up, but it’s looking like those who are likely to show up at this Saturday’s firehouse primary have pretty much made up their minds.
I think the man to beat in this race is still John Van Hoy. He’s been working hard to connect with likely voters and got an early start in the race, announcing his intention to run even before John Chichester announced his retirement. That’s given his campaign more time to get organized, to put the money he’s raised to effective use, and get voters pledged to his cause. It also gives him credibility as a candidate, since everyone else in this race announced only after Chichester told voters he was going to step down. Instead of going for high visibility outside of the district, he’s been focused on getting the attention of local voters and has targeted his efforts well. He pretty much commands the local party base, and seems to resonate well with those most likely to participate. Support from 1st District Chair Russ Moulton has helped a lot, giving him a substantial corps of volunteers.
A late entry is Richard Stewart, who has received backing by John Chichester and Speaker William Howell. This has helped him generally assume the campaign organization of John Chichester, but Chichester hasn’t had to run a whole lot of competitive campaigns and his organization has languished. About the only thing the Chichester camp can do is raise money, which they’ve done a lot of near the end, but they haven’t spent it very well and this last-minute infusion will be hard to employ effectively. With about $50,000 in last minute money, they can buy some radio airtime and try to run a few buses from assisted living facilities to the primary, but there’s not a whole lot else that really can be done. Stewart’s ability to capture the activist base of the party just hasn’t been all that successful, and his base in the Northern Neck Area just isn’t where most of the voters are. He seems largely shut out in the Stafford Area, and fighting to try to carry the Northern Neck. Having supported Democrat Al Pollard in the past has taken a huge bite out of his ability to obtain support from local Republicans.
Jonathon Myers is likely the top of the also-rans. He’s worked hard to gain visibility, but that hasn’t seemed to translate into many likely voters pledging support. With a rather underfunded campaign account, and not much of a campaign effort going beneath the surface, he’s likely going to be the number three vote getter. If you count yard signs, he’s competitive. Beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot there from this campaign. It’s not uncommon for the local newspapers to fail to mention his name when talking about this race. Myers will likely be back in another race, and with some more campaign experience, his bona-fides should serve him more effectively the next time he runs.
Joseph Graziano is also underfunded, lacks an activist base, and just hasn’t had much of an opportunity to connect with a lot of voters despite having run as a Supervisor in Stafford County. With a somewhat underperforming county committee, there’s not much of a volunteer base for him. Although he’s done an excellent job of raising his visibility, given the challenges he’s facing, it’s just not translating into likely votes. I think he’s going to fall into the number four slot. Rumors of Graziano withdrawing have circulated, but haven’t been substantiated. At tonight’s forum we should know for sure.
So unless something dramatic happens at tonight’s candidate forum, this is a Van Hoy/Stewart race. Here’s how I expect this will all shake out on Saturday:
- John Van Hoy: 52% (winner)
- Richard Stuart: 29%
- Jonathan Myers: 12%
- Joseph Graziano: 8%
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