As we reported a couple of weeks ago, upon announcement by Rep. Robert Hurt that he was retiring after jus three terms from Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, conservative Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Buckingham) announced he was running for the nomination to fill the seat.
Since then, two additional candidates have indicated their intention to seek the Republican nomination, while the other potential candidate most people were talking about, Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), bowed out in favor of continued service in Virginia’s Senate.
The two new entrants into the race include one familiar face for district voters, and one familiar voice.
In 2010, Jim McKelvey, a Bedford County real estate developer, placed second behind Robert Hurt in the seven-candidate 5th Congressional district primary. But don’t let that fool you…Hurt won with 48.4% of the vote, to McKelvey’s 25.9%. McKelvey was able to emerge as the primary anti-Hurt, Tea Party-style candidate, spending far more than any other candidate in the race (about $300,000, 83% of which was via a loan from the candidate) except for Hurt, who spent about $550,000 on the primary.
McKelvey generated some mild controversy after the 2010 primary by not immediately endorsing Hurt in the general election. He eventually came around, but kept his federal campaign account active through the 2014 primary…just in case. Most recently, McKelvey has been active on behalf of Donald Trump, serving as a member of his leadership team in Southwest/Southside Virginia.
The most recent new face in the race is one that may be more familiar to district residents for the voice behind it. Michael Del Rosso, currently President, Chairman, and CEO of tech firm Nimaya, Inc. (“Secure Mashups for the Enterprise”), is a frequent guest on the Charlottesville-based Rob Schilling radio show. In addition to business experience, Del Rosso brings some national security chops, as well, serving as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy as well as a fellow at the Claremont Institute. He’s written extensively on areas of national security policy. His announcement, on the Rob Schilling show, can be heard here:
If 2010 is any guide—as the last time the 5th District seat was open—Garrett, McKelvey, and Del Rosso will likely soon have additional company on the campaign trail. As the field gets more crowded, it will likely become more difficult for conservatives to find a consensus candidate. Though Hurt, as a popular and well-funded member of the General Assembly, was able to nearly hit 50% in 2010, there are no guarantees this time around that a single candidate will emerge from among this field of strong candidates.
In other words, it is possible that some closet moderate could split the conservative vote and walk away with the nomination with only a small plurality. For example, with 5 or 6 or 7 candidates the frontrunner could win the nomination with just 25% of the vote. To ensure a conservative nominee, and a nominee around which the bulk of the voters and activists of the 5th District can unify, I urge my friends and colleagues in the 5th District to adopt a convention as the method of choosing this nominee. Only a convention allows Republicans to set a majority threshold before the awarding what all-too-often turns into essentially a lifetime appointment to Congress.
Let’s take the time, and make the effort, to do this right.