This year's pre-primary, pre-convention race for attorney general in Virginia features three members of the General Assembly – including a Loudoun County native son – and one political newcomer looking to overcome disadvantages in both the financial and name-recognition realm.
On the GOP side, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26th) and Del. Rob Bell (R-58th) are vying for their party's nomination during the Republican Party of Virginia's convention May 18 in Richmond.
Both men are lawyers and have served numerous terms in the statehouse.
Bell, who represents the region around Charlottesville, has been consistently touting his conservative credentials in recent weeks, pointing out his high marks in “report cards” from the Virginia Tea Party Patriots and Tertium Quids, a right-leaning, free-market organization.
Obenshain too carries a strong conservative record. His campaign has highlighted his lengthy law resume, managerial ability and ardent anti-tax record through the campaign.
“We are actually very lucky on the Republican side because we have two very good candidates,” John Whitbeck, chairman of the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, said. “Sen. Obenshain and Del. Bell have had distinguished careers in the General Assembly and are very popular with Virginia Republicans.”
On the financial front, Bell had more than $752,000 cash on hand at the end of 2012 and received more than $342,000 in the calendar year. Obenshain finished 2012 with approximately $247,000 cash on hand after raising more than $422,000 on the year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
"Loudoun County's deadline for signing up to be a delegate just finished and it looks like Sen. Obenshain was among the top performers in terms of supporters signed up to go to the Convention,” Whitbeck said.
Justin Fairfax, an Annandale attorney, is hoping to defeat Loudoun's state Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) in the Democratic primary June 11.
Herring is viewed by many as the presumed favorite having served seven years in the General Assembly and receiving a large number of state and local Democratic officials throughout the state. Herring also won a straw poll at U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly's annual St. Patrick's Day party.
Despite coming in a close-second to Herring in the Connolly straw poll, however, Fairfax hailed the event as a “game-changing” moment that signaled his campaign's “upward momentum.” The former federal prosecutor, Fairfax, is making his first bid for public office.
At the conclusion of 2012, Herring had $207,000 cash on hand and received nearly $265,000 throughout the year, compared to Fairfax's $106,000 cash on hand and more than $151,000 raised throughout 2012, according to VPAP.
Charlie Jackson, chairman of the 10th Congressional District Democratic Committee, has endorsed Herring for attorney general. Jackson notes Herring "was the first candidate in the state to come out with a policy paper stressing equality, a key issue for Democrats in the state."
"In the 10th District, clearly this is Herring’s base of support," Jackson said. "His opponent remains a virtual unknown with voters here and appears to be ceding the district to Herring because he has done very little to reach out to Democrats here."