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No state run for Armstrong
Former delegate won't rule out future campaign
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer
Former delegate and House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong announced Monday that he will not run for attorney general.
“My 20 years in the House of Delegates, particularly the last four as the Democratic Leader, required considerable time and attention — time that could not be spent with my family and on the operation of my small business,” Armstrong, who practices law in Martinsville, said in a news release. “My public service was important despite the cost. But for the immediate future my family and my clients now deserve my focus.”
In an interview later Monday, Armstrong said as House Minority Leader, he worked at his law practice two to three days a week and spent the rest of his time traveling around the commonwealth, raising money and recruiting candidates. He essentially took five months off from his practice for his 2011 re-election campaign, he added.
“I’m not a wealthy man. I feel like I need to catch my financial health. My family paid a tremendous price; they went days without me,” he added.
Armstrong’s wife, Pam, agreed.
“I’ve enjoyed having our life back again,” she said of the past year since he lost that re-election bid. “It’s great having a normal life.”
Armstrong readily admitted that he misses being in politics, and he is not ruling out a future run for statewide office — attorney general, lieutenant governor or possibly even governor, he said.
“I hope that my decision will not be perceived as an exit from Virginia politics,” he said. “I still believe I have more contributions to make to this great state.”
Armstrong plans to be active in the November 2013 race, and he has offered to campaign for Terry McAuliffe, who has announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor.
Armstrong also has endorsed state Sen. Mark Herring in his bid for attorney general.
“I am grateful to receive Ward's endorsement,” Herring, D-Loudoun and Fairfax counties, said in a statement Monday. “Throughout his career in public service, Ward has fought passionately for his constituents and for the commonwealth. I appreciate his confidence that I am the right person to carry our party’s banner as its nominee for attorney general in 2013.”
Armstrong, a Democrat from Collinsville, said he feels Herring and McAuliffe will be successful in the November 2013 race. The lieutenant governor’s nomination is up for grabs at this point.
But, Armstrong said, Democrats cannot take next year’s races for granted, despite the fact that former governor Tim Kaine won election to the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama carried Virginia in the November election. Kaine and Obama both are Democrats.
“Democrats do very well when we have 75 percent voter turnout. They don’t do so well when it’s 50 to 55 percent,” he said. That lower turnout is more likely next year since it is an off-year election, he added.
“What we as Democrats need to figure out is how to turn out the vote not just of Democrats but of swing voters. Those are the ones who make the difference,” Armstrong said. “You can’t get elected statewide without the swing voters.”
Armstrong first was elected to the House of Delegates in 1991, and he served 20 years before he a re-election bid to Republican Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, 2011. He served as House Minority Leader from 2007-12.
“We all have a shelf life,” he quipped Monday. “Sure, everyone would rather choose when they leave, but I also acknowledge it took a huge gerrymandering to get me out. Actually, it took two gerrymanderings to get me … They couldn’t beat me fair and square at the ballot box” so Republicans did it through redistricting, placing him in a largely GOP district.
Armstrong said he is not bitter about losing, and noted that he raised $1.1 million to wage the most expensive House race in Virginia’s history. He also outperformed Democratic performance projections by 11 percentage points, he said.
Now, Armstrong is focusing on his family, his law practice, and reviving plans to open a satellite office in Richmond. Those plans had been put on hold while he contemplated a state run.
He emphasized that he will keep his Martinsville practice open.