|John Whitbeck secured the Republican nomination Dec. 17 for attorney general-elect and state Sen. Mark Herring’s 33rd District seat. Times-Mirror File Photo|
Conservative stalwart John Whitbeck was tapped Monday night to be the Republican nominee in a special election to fill attorney general-elect and state Sen. Mark Herring's 33rd District seat in Richmond.
Whitbeck handily defeated Herndon's Ron Meyer in a 33rd Senate District Republican mass meeting.
The chairman of the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, Whitbeck will face Democrat Jennifer Wexton and state Del. Joe May (R-33rd), who's running as an independent, in a date-to-be-determined special election.
May opted to run as an independent after local Republicans announced they would hold the mass meeting-style election (similar to a convention) rather a firehouse primary. A 20-year veteran of the House of Delegates, May was defeated in a Republican primary over the summer.
Whitbeck, a local attorney, said last month he's running "for the state Senate to ensure Obamacare is not expanded in Virginia, to make sure tax dollars taken from our region for transportation stay in our region, and that our children have access to a world-class education."
In 2011, Whitbeck lost the Republican primary for the House of Delegates 10th District seat to incumbent Randy Minchew.
Whitbeck made headlines in the final months of the 2013 election season when, during an event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, he made what many observers considered an anti-Semitic joke.
Said Whitbeck at the Sept. 17 rally in Sterling: “ … when the pope is elected, the head of the Jewish faith goes to the Vatican and brings a ceremonial piece of paper. It's very old and it dates back hundreds of years, and he comes into the pope's office and he ceremonially hands the piece of paper to the pope, the new pope. And then the new pope ceremonially rejects it. And the head of the Jewish faith leaves . . . Well, this time around, the pope said: 'I gotta find out what's on this piece of paper.' So he actually takes it from the head of the Jewish faith, he opens it and he looks at it, and he closes it ... and his Jewish counterpart says 'what was it?' And he says, 'well, that was the bill for the Last Supper.'”
The next day, Whitbeck said he "did not tell an anti-Semitic joke."
"I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service," he added.
Several days later, Whitbeck offered a quick apology on the 10th Congressional District website, stating: "Earlier this week, I made a lighthearted attempt at humor to which some have taken offense. It was certainly not my intent to offend anyone and I sincerely apologize to those who were.”
Whitbeck has served as a substitute judge in the region for five years, an adjunct professor at George Mason Law School and the president of the Lansdowne Homeowner’s Association.
Herring, the attorney general-elect, is currently entrenched in a statewide recount of his historically tight race against state Sen. Mark Obenshain.