UPDATE: NLS says Herrity is in. My sources say Ben is full of crap.
Chris over at Mason Conservative is saying he’s hearing the rumblings of a possible entry by Supervisor Pat Herrity in the 11th Congressional District race. We’ve seen these rumors floated before about this by the Washington Post, which I skeptically attributed to their desire to see someone other than Keith Fimian run for this position, but this is the first time we’re seeing something more credible about this possibility than a major media outlet with a clear agenda talking about this. A primary battle for the Republican nomination in this race is simultaneously interesting and potentially disturbing, with strong implications for the possibility of successfully unseating the atrocious Gerry “Boss” Connolly in Congress.
Keith Fimian has long been running for a rematch against Connolly, and has been extremely active since last summer, attending Tea Parties, holding press conferences in front of Connolly’s office on the health care legislation debacle, and has been raising money and improving his staff. Fimian lost to Connolly 43%-55% in 2008 in a Congressional District where Obama beat McCain 57%-42% — a really bad election cycle for Republicans, and the math looks a lot better for him in 2010 especially considering that McDonnell beat Deeds here 55%-46%. While Obama is probably still more popular in the district than Deeds, the swing in the electorate between 2008 and 2009 has been tremendous and much of that swing likely has staying power through 2010. Connolly’s voting record — a near mirror image of Nancy Pelosi’s — is a political liability that Fimian has already been taking full advantage of, with good effect. Fimian stands a very good chance of unseating Connolly given this dynamic.
Herrity is also a very compelling candidate, and is very popular in Fairfax County. His performance in elections in Democrat-run Fairfax County is an aberration for Republicans, and his record on the board is strong and compelling. Had he started making a run for Congress last summer and began building his candidacy outside of his Fairfax district then, he’d likely be a clear front-runner as a known commodity, experienced elected official with a strong political base in the larger portion of the district. In that case Herrity would have little difficulty generating interest among Prince William County voters, which account for only a third of the district, but are a crucial swing for candidates who expect to run close in Fairfax, which is pretty much the typical game plan for Republicans in these Fairfax-Prince William split districts. As far as a Herrity-Connolly matchup, Herrity would likely run just as strong as Fimian, if not stronger, given enough lead time for his campaign.
The issue here is that Herrity doesn’t have that lead time. The race has been on for months, and it’s awfully late to start mounting a Congressional campaign when the election is only effectively ten months away. While Fimian has been everywhere there’s been an opportunity to point out that there are better ideas than those Connolly has been supporting since July, Herrity hasn’t. Meanwhile Fimian has locked up endorsements from Congressman Eric Cantor (putting Fimian on the Young Guns list, no less), Delegates Bob Marshall and Scott Lingamfelter, and BOCS Chairman Corey Stewart and Occoquan Supervisor Mike May. Fimian has essentially locked up the third of the District that Prince William County represents and gotten the nod by the House Minority Whip. The only reason there aren’t a whole lot of Fairfax endorsements is that there simply aren’t Republican elected officials there.
So let’s say Herrity challenges Fimian. The most likely nomination method would be a convention, one that would give the 11th CD Committee fits as they try to manage the process of selecting a candidate among two very likeable and qualified candidates. Herrity can’t get the elected officials who endorsed Fimain to back out, he’s likely at a huge disadvantage in a Prince William County contingent, so the only thing for him is to fight really hard in Fairfax. A savvy challenger with these disadvantages is going to have to fight really hard to win, and in order to fight hard here, you got to go negative at some point.
I’ve no doubt the actual stronger candidate among the two would prevail, but they’d get out of this one bloodied up quite a bit, giving Connolly who is also in somewhat of a desperate situation just the opportunity to reinforce negative campaign themes from the primary battle to salvage a victory here. Connolly is no idiot when it comes to elections — he’s among the best campaigners out there as his long string of electoral victories would attest — and make no mistake he will use any advantage he can get his hands on, even if that means turning a funeral for a fallen police officer into a campaign event. Yeah, he’s done that before. Don’t underestimate him.
I generally like the idea of a competition for a nomination. Late, somewhat frantic competitions have the tendency to get a little ugly however, and while that can give bloggers quite a bit of interesting material to write about it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the winner of such contests. Perhaps if Herrity can bide his time a little longer until the electoral boundaries shift, he’ll find himself an opportunity at either the state or federal level where his path to a nomination would be a little clearer, and in doing so he’ll earn himself some party favors that will help him navigate that path.
It might be a better option for him than getting into this Congressional race right now.
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