June 9, 2010
Local Republicans are looking for common ground after a Congressional primary that left them divided.
They're holding a unity rally Saturday in Charlottesville and beginning to get behind the primary winner, Robert Hurt, who will challenge incumbent Democrat Tom Perriello in November.
Though Republican Party leadership is standing behind Hurt, the Jefferson Area Tea Party said they aren't ready to endorse anyone yet. In fact, Tea Party officials said they're considering endorsing an independent candidate from Danville, which could shake things up in November.
Local Tea Party members are in hot water. Hurt lacked substantial Tea Party support, but he took the nomination.
"Robert Hurt certainly raised the ire of many conservatives and Tea Party groups, but they were never able to coalesce behind a single opposition candidate to take him on," said Isaac Wood of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
The Republican Party of Virginia has endorsed Hurt, a state senator, saying, "Now, the voters have spoken, and Republicans all across the 5th District will stand united behind Robert Hurt.
"The goal is to make sure everyone is on the same page, that we are focused on the same goals in November," said Rachel Schoenewald of the Albemarle Republican Party.
But it's questionable whether all the candidates are united. Runner-up Jim McKelvey earned a substantial number of votes, and it's unclear if he will encourage his supporters to back Hurt.
"I will not abandon all those who shared their hopes and ideals with me during the campaign," McKelvey said in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday night. "In the coming days, I will be forming a political action committee to bring together all those who share the same ideals as me."
They're ideals independent candidate Jeff Clark said he represents in the Tea Party.
"We have been in talks with Jim, and I think that we'll probably give things a few days to shake out to see where things go," Clark said. "He has a lot to think about."
If McKelvey supports Clark, that could heat things up in the fall, potentially splitting the Republican vote.
Perriello called Hurt after his victory Tuesday night to congratulate him. Experts say Perriello will spend the summer rounding up volunteers and getting ready for November.