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GOP slate lacks Southside names

Friday, May 17, 2013

The lack of Southside Republican candidates in state races concerns a local party chairman more than two of the region’s House of Delegates members.

During their convention this weekend in Richmond, state Republicans will pick their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Their picks will face Democratic hopefuls in the Nov. 5 election.

Ten Republican candidates are running in the three races. None are from Southside, “which I see as a problem,” said W.C. Fowlkes, chairman of the Henry County Republican Party.

“All of them, I think, have as good of an understanding as anyone not living here” about the region’s needs, Fowlkes said. He cited starting construction on the planned Interstate 73 and completing the widening of U.S. 58 to four lanes to help with economic development as examples of those needs.

“We really need to have some candidates from this part of the state,” Fowlkes said. Not having any, he said, “it would be fruitless to think we are going to get the kind of attention (from state lawmakers) that they get up there in Northern Virginia.”

Because Northern Virginia is more densely populated than Southside, it has more representation in the House of Delegates, he noted.

Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said he is concerned “to some degree” about the lack of Republican candidates from Southside.

However, Merricks said efforts to convince state lawmakers to do things for specific regions are focused along the lines of “urban versus rural more than Republican versus Democrat.”

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said he probably would agree with Merricks. He said the vast majority of bills introduced in the General Assembly either “help the whole state” or deal specifically with urban or rural issues.

“All candidates who I’ve talked to understand the issues” facing Southside, such as the need to attract companies that will create jobs, he said.

Jeff Williams, chairman of the Martinsville Republican Party, could not be reached for comment.

State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is the only Republican gubernatorial candidate. Vying for attorney general in the Nov. 5 election will be Del. Rob Bell of Charlottesville and state Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg.

Seven Republicans hope to be their party’s pick for lieutenant governor this weekend. They are:

• Jeannemarie Davis, a former delegate and state senator from Vienna.

• E.W. Jackson, a Chesapeake minister.

• Scott Lingamfelter, a retired Army colonel from Prince William County.

• Steve Martin, a state senator from Chesterfield County.

• Pete Snyder, a communications entrepreneur from Fairfax County.

• Corey Stewart, an international trade attorney who is chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

• Susan Stimpson, chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

Fowlkes, who will attend the convention, said that as the Henry County Republican Party chairman, he is remaining neutral about the candidates.

“I’m a gatherer of information” on candidates to present to voters, he said.

Based on what he knows about the candidates, “I could live with any one” who might be chosen by the party and eventually elected, Fowlkes said.

Cuccinelli obviously is going to be on the November ballot, Fowlkes said.

Both attorney general hopefuls are well-qualified and well-liked in Richmond, Fowlkes said, adding that whichever lieutenant governor candidate is chosen at the convention, “I think they will be well-received.”

Merricks and Marshall both like Lingamfelter for lieutenant governor and Bell for attorney general.

“Scott is a likable guy and a capable leader,” Merricks said of Lingamfelter.

Bell is “probably one of the smartest guys I’ve ever run into,” he said. “He’s very thorough and follows things to the letter of the law.”

Marshall said both men have strong work ethics. He said Lingamfelter treats people with opposing viewpoints well.

Obenshain seems to be smart and thorough, too, Merricks said, although he emphasized that he does not know the senator well.

Merricks also emphasized that he does not want his remarks about Bell and Lingamfelter to be construed as formal endorsements.

He acknowledged that he made a contribution to Lingamfelter’s campaign.

But “I told him I didn’t think (giving him) my endorsement would matter,” Merricks said, noting he is not running for re-election this year.

Fowlkes and Merricks indicated there is no candidate who they absolutely dislike.

Marshall has been irked by some lieutenant governor candidates whom he has heard say that if they are elected on Nov. 5, they will make changes to the state budget. He declined to name those candidates.

“It shows me they don’t understand the budget,” he said.

The lieutenant governor is on no committees, let alone a budget committee, and cannot cast a tie-breaking vote on budgets, Marshall said.

Fowlkes said about 10,000 people — including party delegates — are expected to be at the convention. That is significantly more than the roughly 3,000 who attended last year’s convention, he said.

Last year, there were “not a whole lot (of races) at the state level” to consider, he recalled.

Marshall said he will attend the convention.

Merricks said he will not. The crowd will be too large for his liking, he said, and besides, “I’m getting out” of politics.

The lawmakers said they would prefer for their party to hold primaries in the future instead of conventions to whittle the field of candidates. Primaries let more people participate in the decision-making processes, they said.

Fowlkes said he thinks a convention is sufficient this year. Yet he also likes primaries.

In the future, he said, “maybe they can go from one to the other for each election cycle.”


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