Manassas Journal Messenger | Connaughton courted for lieutenant governor

Supervisor Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at-large, may be running for re-election but he is also one of two moderate Northern Virginians being pressed to run for lieutenant governor in 2005.

This has GOP party members who favor a more conservative candidate and his Democratic challenger for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors ready to attack.

Twice in the last two weeks local Republicans have invited Hanover Sen. William Bolling, R-4th, the conservative front runner for the lieutenant governor spot, to the county.

Monday night Bolling passed out donations to candidates at the monthly meeting of the Prince William Republican Committee.

Rick Coplen, 44, Connaughton’s Democratic challenger in the November general election, is questioning the chairman’s commitment to the county if he would consider leaving county office before the end of the next four-year term.

“Obviously I am not going to foreclose anything, but my main focus is this election,” Connaughton, 42, said last week, downplaying recent hype of a possible run.

Connaughton and Fairfax Delegate Jeannemarie A. Devolites, R-35th District, reportedly are being pushed to run by Rep. Tom Davis, R-11th District, because it would advance Northern Virginia and moderate ideals in Richmond.

“[My voters] feel strongly that Northern Virginia pays a good percentage of the tax money used that contribute to the state’s economy, but don’t see that same percentage coming back,” said Devolites, 47. “Northern Virginians really want representation statewide, someone who is representing the entire commonwealth and is looking out for the interests of Northern Virginia.”

Geography could be secondary to the struggle between GOP conservatives and moderates, a fight that intensified in 2000 when Republicans took control of both state legislative houses.

Bolling, 46, will file later this year for his run but already has been “unofficially” running for lieutenant governor for a year. He is running on a conservative message of limited government and low taxes. He had raised $200,000 through June.

Prince William is fair game for Bolling, 46, with its Republican party splintered by conservatives who oppose “moderate conservatives” like Connaughton and school board chairwoman Lucy Beauchamp. Bolling was in town Monday, less than two weeks after he attended an Occoquan fund-raiser.

“We’re hitting it very hard,” Bolling said last week. “We will concede no part of the state to anyone.”

The sales tax referendum – not a liability in Connaughton’s re-election race this year because Coplen supported it too – could be a target of Bolling because he opposed it.

Another conservative, Gil Davis, 60, the Fairfax lawyer who represented Paula Jones against President Clinton and was an attorney general candidate in 1997, said Monday he is seriously considering a run.

“I do think it is important for Northern Virginia to have a candidate because we have a lot of votes here,” Davis said.

Other possible candidates for lieutenant governor are Waynesboro Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-24th District, and former Lt. Gov. John Hager.

The current lieutenant governor is Democrat Tim Kaine, former mayor of Richmond, who will run against Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, R, for governor in 2005.

The Republican nomination race for attorney general is between Virginia Beach Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, R-84th District, and Richmond attorney Steve Baril. Conservative Loudoun Delegate Richard H. Black, R-32nd District, is also mentioned as a possible candidate.

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