|State Sens. Barbara Favola (D-31st), left, and Dick Saslaw (D-35th), right, spoke during the campaign office opening of 33rd Senate District Democratic candidate Jennifer Wexton, center, in Sterling Dec. 4. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko|
The Virginia Senate's Democratic leader, Dick Saslaw, said Wednesday that local Republicans will nominate a “carbon copy” of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for the upcoming 33rd Senate District special election.
At a campaign event in Sterling for 33rd District Democratic candidate Jennifer Wexton, Saslaw said a candidate like 10th Congressional District Republican Party Chairman John Whitbeck gives Democrats a “bigger target to shoot at” compared with a more moderate Republican like longtime state delegate Joe May.
May on Tuesday announced he'll seek the 33rd District seat as an independent rather than a Republican.
Hard-line conservatives like Cuccinelli are the “only people that can be nominated in [the Republican] party,” Saslaw said, adding “we intend to point that out to voters.”
“We are going to spend what it takes to win this race. We're not going to be outspent, we're not going to be out-campaigned,” said Saslaw. “ … No resources will be spared in this election.”
The Senate of Virginia's 33rd District seat will come open if attorney general-elect Mark Herring holds his advantage through the his race's recount, called for by Republican candidate Mark Obenshain. Less than 200 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast separated Herring and Obenshain in the attorney general race.
A date hasn't been set for the special senate election, though Democrats said they're expecting it to be held Jan. 7.
Saslaw (D-35th), Wexton and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) appeared together Wednesday to build momentum for the Democrat's campaign. They spoke on the prospect of a turning tide in the 20-Republican, 20-Democrat Senate of Virginia, something Sawlaw called “extremely appealing.”
For the past two years, the evenly split senate has essentially been in the control of Republicans, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling serving as the tie-breaking vote. Two senate seats held by Democrats, the 33rd District and 6th District (held by lieutenant governor-elect Ralph Northam), are now up for grabs. With the Democrat Northam serving as the state's second-in-command and potential tie-breaking vote, Saslaw said it's crucial his party hold onto both seats.
Saslaw, during an interview, would not comment on May's surprising decision to run as an independent, and the veteran lawmaker wouldn't say what his top priorities would be if the Democrats win essential control of the state Senate.
As a lobbying point for Wexton, state Sen. Favola noted there are only six women serving in the 40-person senate.
In her speech, Wexton said she's “the candidate who can continue Mark Herring's tradition of pragmatic problem-solving in the state senate.”
“We need leaders in Richmond who will make transportation a priority, who will protect women's access to health care and who will ensure that every child receives a quality education,” Wexton said.
The Democrat will face either Whitbeck or Ron Meyer, a conservative commentator and public relations professional from Herndon, in the special election. Republicans will chose their nominee at a mass meeting Dec. 16 in Sterling.
Both Whitbeck and Meyer have been quick to highlight the ailing Affordable Care Act in their campaigns. Hours after Wexton's event, Whitbeck put out an email lambasting the health care law.
“Americans are losing their health insurance and many are suffering from increased healthcare costs as a result of it,” Whitbeck stated. “Our new governor-elect already signaled his intention to force the expansion of Obamacare on Virginians, a divisive plan that will certainly hurt families and businesses. We need strong conservative leaders in Richmond who are committed to stopping this plan in its tracks.”
Whitbeck this morning did not respond to Saslaw's comments, but again attacked the Affordable Care Act.
“I'm running for state Senate on a positive message that appeals to most Virginians: ObamaCare is already hurting middle-class families, and we must prevent its expansion in Virginia," he said. "Over the coming weeks, we will be campaigning aggressively across the district to ensure voters are well-informed about the clear choices in this race."