Friday, June 11, 2010

Splitting the Republican Vote in the 5th District

Tea Party member Jeff Clark, a businessman in Danville, is making good on his promise to run as an independent against incumbent Tom Perriello (right) in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, according to WSLS TV in Roanoke.

lost the Republican nomination to Robert Hurt and is quoted as saying, “I think [Republican Party officials] think that me being in the race will split the vote and give Tom Perriello the win, but this is not about Congressman Perriello. This is about the system.”

has become one of those little-known, truculent Tea Partiers who questions the purity of mainstream Repubs. (He is so little-known, in fact, that I couldn't find a photo of him.) An article in the Lynchburg News and Advance recently quoted him as saying he is “fundamentally opposed to [Virginia State] Sen. Robert Hurt. I feel that he is an establishment Republican. I would describe him as a situational conservative.”

Further, Clark says, Hurt “doesn’t suit the mood of the country and doesn’t lead to substantial change. Returning power to the Republicans, after they have contributed to messing everything up in the first place, is ludicrous.”

Tea Party candidates (and Clark says he is not a TPC, only a member) across the country have stressed that they are the true conservatives in the race and that mainstream Repubs have sold out to The Man. Political types have predicted a tight race with Hurt and believe Clark’s entry plays well for Perriello, a guy who has never been considered a tight fit for the ultra-conservative, rambling, gerrymandered district that runs from liberal, highly-educated Charlottesville to ultra-conservative and blue collar Southside.

Hurt pissed off the "no tax" segment of the party in 2004 when he joined a small group of moderate Repubs in the Virginia General Assembly to support then Gov. Mark Warner's tax increase that helped balance a budget that was being held captive by the far right. Hurt was the only one of seven primary candidates Clark said he would run against, should he get the nomination.

The Washington post quoted one anonymous Repub strategist as saying of Clark, "Bottom line is, he has no name ID, no money and no capability to get money. He will get the standard two percent protest vote, and that's it." The "standard two percent" in a very tight race, though, could make a difference. Remember that Perriello won the seat initially by a few hundred votes, running, in effect, against the disaster of the Bush years.

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