candidates tangle in Northern Virginia
Alfred M. Biddlecomb
The race to succeed Gov. James S. Gilmore III rolled through Northern
Virginia last weekend leaving a trail of bad blood and suspicion between
supporters of Lt. Gov. John Hager and Attorney General Mark Earley.
Both Republicans hope to succeed Gilmore, but the race became a lot closer
than most originally thought with the underdog Hager picking up key victories
in Prince William and Arlington counties.
Because Republicans have decided to hold a convention to nominate their
candidate, the contest comes down to who can recruit and sign up the most
delegates to vote in the June 2 state convention in Richmond.
Unofficial results show that Hager earned 58.9 percent of Prince William
County’s allotted delegates to Earley’s 34.2 percent with 6.9 percent of
the local delegates listing themselves as undecided.
It was a similar story in Arlington where Hager collected 62.6 percent
of the delegates to Earley’s 32.5 percent.
“We’ve worked hard in Northern Virginia and it seems to be paying
off,” Hager campaign spokesman Reed Boatright said Wednesday. “We
have good local leadership in the region and the lieutenant governor has
been up there many times.”
Fairfax, the state’s largest delegate prize, has yet to release the results
of its county canvas where thousands of potential delegates pre-filed for
An unofficial tally released by the Hager campaign earlier this week
showed the lieutenant governor had collected around 57 percent of the county’s
convention votes. This infuriated the Fairfax GOP leadership who were withholding
the official results until all applications were screened for eligibility.
Fairfax GOP officials filed a complaint with the state party last month
accusing Hager supporters of misleading prospective delegates at Metro stations
and grocery stores.
Hager promptly denied any wrongdoing and demanded an apology from Fairfax
GOP Chairman Joseph Underwood.
The Fairfax scrap was not what Gilmore had hoped for when trying to settle
on a successor who must face Northern Virginia Democrat Mark Warner in November.
Officials with the Earley camp say the Hager advantage in Northern Virginia
will decline considerably when the delegate applications are verified.
Delegates must be registered voters in the locality where they pre-filed.
Earley supporters say this could reduce Hager’s final delegate support in
both Prince William and Fairfax.
“We think that up to one-third of those delegates are unregistered
voters,” Earley spokesman Quintin Kendall said Wednesday. “The
Hager campaign really worked hard in Northern Virginia, but we expect that
in Richmond a majority of the delegates attending will be voting for Mark
Prince William, Fairfax and Arlington contain 20 percent of the 9,624
votes to be cast at the convention. It takes a majority of those votes cast
If Hager’s numbers in Prince William hold up, he’d control 200 votes
to Earley’s 116. William Becker, chairman of the Prince William Republican
Party, said he expects the local delegate tally to be verified within 10
Delegates are not bound to support the candidate they filed support for
once the convention begins adding another variable to the process.
The official Fairfax results are expected to be released this week and
would give Hager the lead in the statewide delegate count if the preliminary
numbers hold up.
Earley picked key victories earlier this week in Manassas, Charlottesville
and Roanoke county giving the attorney general a 1,073 to 913 lead in the
delegate vote count.
“So far it’s only names on a sheet of paper, but we’re comfortable
with the delegate’s we’ve signed up so far,” Kendall said.
Boatright said the Hager campaign is in the position they wanted to be
in heading into the most pivotal week of the campaign. Delegates are expected
to file this weekend in Stafford County and the delegate-rich Tidewater
area – Earley’s home territory.
“If John can make gains in Norfolk and Virginia Beach on Saturday,
we stand an excellent chance of being nominated,” Boatright said.
The winner at the convention will face Warner, who is uncontested for
the Democratic nomination.
The Republican convention is set up to gauge the general consensus of
the statewide party membership.
Votes are allotted to each locality based on the percentage of its voters
casting votes for Republican candidates in the last presidential and gubernatorial
Though Prince William is the second most populated county in the state,
it is fifth in convention votes based on the proportion of GOP votes tallied
during the last two elections.
The nominee must gain 4,813 of the convention’s 9,624 votes.
Also in Richmond, Republicans will have to choose a candidate for lieutenant
governor between Chesapeake Sen. Randy Forbes and Warrenton Delegate Jay