From this afternoon's Washington Post on-line edition...
Fairfax County Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (R-Springfield) said Wednesday he will seek the Republican nomination against first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), as both parties in Northern Virginia prepare for the 11th District contest.
Herrity, 49, an accountant whose father was chairman of the Fairfax board in the 1970s and '80s, had contemplated entering the race for weeks. Word leaked out about his potential candidacy, and on Wednesday, he called his announcement "probably the worst kept secret" in Fairfax County.
"Things have changed dramatically in the last four years," Herrity said at a press conference at the West Springfield Government Center. "Simply put, I believe our country is at a crossroads and I feel I am the best candidate who can provide fiscal responsibility in Washington."
Republican officials had pressured Herrity to announce his bid soon or risk falling behind in fundraising. Herrity's entrance into the race sets up a Republican primary battle with Keith Fimian, a wealthy Oakton businessman who has pledged to stay in the contest regardless of Herrity's decision. Fimian, 53, ran against Connolly in 2008 and lost.
Through the end of September, Fimian reported $269,000 in cash on hand, according to federal campaign finance records, and he recently received the endorsement of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). On Wednesday, Fimian said his total fundraising amount was closer to $550,000 and his campaign released a statement soon after Herrity's announcement, labeling Herrity as an ambitious opportunist and "career politician."
"Instead of staying focused on the job he was elected to do, Herrity is again abandoning his job while drawing a taxpayer salary to seek another office," Fimian said. "This will be the third different office he has sought within four years. His ambition outruns his responsibilities."
Herrity successfully ran for Fairfax County supervisor in Springfield in 2007, and board chairman in 2008, narrowly losing to Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) by 1,206 votes out of 103,972 cast.
On Wednesday, he played down the looming primary contest, saying "competition was good" and calling Fimian's criticisms "unfortunate."
Republicans have already been preparing for a bloody primary battle between Herrity and Fimian. Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, and Becky Stoeckel, chairman of the 11th District Republican Committee, announced they have endorsed Herrity. Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, who endorsed Fimian several months ago, said in an interview that he was "sticking to his endorsement but Pat is a great guy and I think he would be a great congressman."
Fimian dismissed the endorsements as coming from "party insiders." "The voters don't want an insider," he said. "They are looking for fresh ideas."
Herrity's announcement also came on the heels of Sen. David W. Marsden's surprising Tuesday night special election victory over Stephen M. "Steve" Hunt, a Republican former Fairfax County School Board member, in the 37th state Senate race. Republicans were optimistic for a win, especially after incoming governor Robert F. McDonnell won the district in November, and a host of statewide and local Republican candidates cruised to victory.
Democrats said Marsden's victory was a testament to strong party organization and an energized voter base. Attorney General-elect Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II (R) held the seat for seven years and Republicans had represented the 37th since 1992. Democrats now represent all 10 Virginia Senate districts that are at least partly in Fairfax County.
"Both state parties put a lot of money in this race, but this shows that Democrats here haven't given up," said Rex Simmons, the chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. "November was a wake-up call and last night was a big victory for us."
Most important for Herrity is that Marsden (D-Fairfax) won right in his back yard; The newly elected senator carried Hunt in the Springfield district by 25 votes out of 10,569 cast.
"Republicans were almost gleeful after November," Connolly said. "They were rubbing their hands, licking their chops. And don't get it wrong, they were expecting a win so I imagine this is sobering."
Republicans attempted to play down the Democratic victory, with Herrity noting that Hunt was outspent and out-worked in the race to get absentee voters and Fimian calling it a "local election based largely on local issues."
In an interview, Connolly deflected any questions about the 2010 midterm elections and the prospective Republican nominee, saying he would announce his reelection plans in mid-March.
"I've been in office for 15 years and my voters know me well," Connolly said. "I've won election seven straight times and, if I run again, I plan on winning."