UPDATED 01/27/14 at 2:40pm: One of the three declared candidates for Virginia’s 2014 GOP nomination for U.S. Senate has withdrawn from the race, while Del. Ben Cline opts to not join.
Last night, The Bull Elephant learned from multiple independent sources that former 10th Congressional District GOP Chairman Howie Lind had been speaking with key supporters and others yesterday and today to give them advance notice of his pending announcement that he plans to pull out of the GOP Senate race. Mr. Lind did not return our call seeking comment prior to the time of publication, but did release a statement confirming our report.
Rumors began circulating widely last week when it became known that most of Lind’s staff had left the campaign. At that time, a source close to the campaign characterized the departures as “really nothing out of the ordinary in a year-long campaign,” and said that there had been some different thinking about strategy and messaging among the senior campaign team. This source also put rest to rumors that the staff shake-up portended the end of Lind’s campaign, suggesting that Lind was “in it to win it.” It is unclear what may have happened since then to shake this resolve.
Lind’s departure will leave a field of just two declared candidates vying to take on Democrat incumbent Senator Mark Warner. Those include former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and Fairfax businessman Shak Hill. The filing deadline for candidates to officially enter the race is Saturday, February 1, 2014.Del. Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), a current member of the General Assembly, is also said to be considering a run against Warner. Late indications suggest Cline is weighing the potential for a run very seriously. This consideration is apparently a response to significant encouragement Cline has been receiving from some conservative leaders worried about how much of a factor Gillespie’s background as a lobbyist and Washington insider may hinder the GOP’s ability to defeat Warner, whose support of Obamacare has opened up a race that once looked to be a safe Democrat win.
UPDATE: 2:40 pm on January 26, 2014: Del. Ben Cline has opted out of the Senate race. The letter he released on the subject is embedded below.
Cross-posted at our mother blog, Virginia Virtucon.