|Virginia’s 10th Congressional District|
Less than 24 hours after U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf's stunning announcement Tuesday that he won't seek re-election in 2014, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a memo pinpointing just how “in play” Virginia's 10th Congressional District seat -- one that's been held by Wolf since 1980 -- is. Yet with what many are predicting will be an experienced and crowded Republican field vying to replace Wolf, and seemingly a lack of star power thus far on the Democratic side, the GOP remains confident it can keep the Northern Virginia seat in its grips.
Wolf was the lone Republican representing the populous region in Congress.
Key points within the DCCC memo highlight that President Barack Obama won the 10th District in 2008, as did Democrat Tim Kaine for the Senate seat in 2012, and that Northern Virginia is home to thousands of government employees and federal contractors, nearly all of whom were piqued in some fashion by the October government shutdown – blamed largely on Republicans.
The DCCC maintains, “Republicans held onto the district only based on the strength of Wolf's incumbency.”
“Congressman Wolf was a consistently strong candidate with a long record in the district, and voters saw him as a centrist,” the DCCC memo states. “He outperformed Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points in 2012, a performance a replacement Republican would be unable to match given the drag from the national brand.”
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Northern Virginia, said the 10th Congressional still leans Republican, despite Wolf's looming retirement.
“It's the Republicans' seat to lose, but it's certainly a losable seat,” Davis said Wednesday on News Channel 8's NewsTalk with Bruce Depuyt.
Davis listed Northern Virginia state Dels. Barbara Comstock, Tim Hugo and Jim LeMunyon as potential candidates in the mix to replace Wolf.
State Sen. Dick Black, who announced the formation of an exploratory committee to study the feasibility of his candidacy for the congressional seat, will be a “very strong candidate in a convention process,” Davis said.
“He's Loudoun County-based, which is the heart of that district,” he said.
A major question in the race is whether the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee will select its candidate through a primary vote or a convention.
Virginia Republicans have struggled lately through the convention process, which selected hard-line conservatives like Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Obenshian and E.W. Jackson, all of whom lost their 2013 bids for statewide office.
And locally, a convention-type process to nominate a candidate for the 33rd Virginia Senate special election splintered the local party, with two-decade Republican Del. Joe May opting to wage an independent campaign rather than participate in the convention-style mass meeting.
Davis, who served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1998-2002, supports a primary process for the GOP rather than a convention, calling primaries “party-building cases.”
“If the Republicans can pull together behind their nominee at the end and unite the party, they should win,” Davis said. “But given our track record and the dysfunctionality of the Loudoun County Republican Party, the heart of the district, this makes it a year where we're going to need a strong candidate to unite all factions.”
Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York, another Republican who may consider a run for Wolf's seat, did not respond to a call and email seeking comment for this story.
Patricia Phillips, an active Loudoun County Republican and the former 2011 nominee for the Senate of Virginia's 33rd District, agreed with the notion there will be a packed field for her party. Phillips, who said she is not planning a campaign herself, gave the best odds to a currently sitting lawmaker, because that shows a “track record of raising money and being able to manage a campaign.”
Phillips wouldn't take a firm position on whether she'd prefer a convention or a voting primary to elect the nominee, saying there are positives to both. A primary is more expensive, she said, but also allows for “more public input from the family,” meaning the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, three Democrats – Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, Fairfax attorney Richard Bolger and Leesburg architect Sam Kubba -- have announced campaigns for Wolf's seat, all doing so before the three-decade incumbent's retirement announcement. Foust is the only of the three to have experience in elected office, serving on the Fairfax board since 2008.
Whether it's one of those three men, or another Democrat launches a bid, the DCCC believes its party can claim the seat of Wolf, who “refuses to run on his party’s brand of reckless gridlock,” according to the memo.