Yesterday’s announcement by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA1) that he would not be seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Gov. Terry McAuliffe next year has had immediate ramifications.
The bulk of GOP activists and leaders in the First District had been loyal to Wittman. The people that know him best were also his most loyal supporters in his putative bid for Governor. Now that he’s exited, the campaign of erstwhile rival Ed Gillespie is touting how they’ve been able to quickly pick up the support of Wittman’s key backers in his district, including conservative stalwart and First District GOP Chairman Eric Herr.
The Gillespie campaign released the following list of key First District endorsements a short while ago:
– Rich Anderson, Delegate, Prince William County
– Mark Cole, Delegate, Spotsylvania County
– Margaret Ransone, Delegate, Westmoreland County
– Travis Bird, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Spotsylvania County
– Bill Card, Former GOP Chair, Prince William County
– Robert Deeds, Sheriff, James City County/Williamsburg City
– Willie Deutsch, School Board Member, Prince William County
– Danny Diggs, Sheriff, York County
– Vince Donoghue, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Essex County
– Raymond Duncan, GOP Chair, King George County
– Jim Fisher, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Fauquier County
– Debbie Harper, GOP Chair, Richmond County
– Chris Henderson, GOP Chair, James City County
– Eric Herr, GOP Chair, 1st Congressional District
– Bob Mosier, Sheriff, Fauquier County
– Dave Rector, GOP Chair, Essex County
– Jeff Sili, Supervisor, GOP Chair, Caroline County
This list is in addition to a long list of support Gillespie had even prior to Wittman’s exit from the race.
This news comes as a blow to Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, who himself resides in the First District, particularly with the Prince William leaders included on the list of endorsements. It is also likely somewhat discouraging to upstart maverick candidate Denver Riggleman, who is rumored by many to be planning an announcement of his candidacy at this weekend’s Republican Party of Virginia Advance in Richmond.
It’s still very early in this race, and anything can still happen. Corey Stewart is a fighter with a good record at winning in tough territory. Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) almost always outperforms expecations, and Riggleman appears to be capable of energizing a segment of the electorate looking for something different.
Still, so far, Gillespie is making all the right moves and, between this news and news of the hiring of the affable and well-liked Pete Snyder as his campaign chairman, he continues to cement his position as front runner for the 2017 nomination.