IVY- Republicans will have a new but familiar choice in next June's open primary election to challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Ivy. Meet Rep. Tom Perriello, R-Ivy.
Following in the independent tradition of the 5th District, Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello announced that he would enter the June Republican primary in order to receive the nomination of both major parties.
“I now have my work cut out for me,” Perriello said. “I’m humbled to — I mean this sincerely — humbled to be in the field of up to nine good men and women. The fact that there are so many candidates really does show the level of enthusiasm for changing the direction of this country.”
"This probably isn't what people thought I meant when I said I'd work a double shift," said Perriello.
Andy Sere, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the GOP is looking for a candidate with a strong record, the ability to put together a well-funded campaign and who can draw a stark contrast with President Barack Obama's liberal agenda in Washington.
“Having this process play out in public view and be decided by a primary open to all voters, including Democrats, that’s something that’s healthy,” Sere said. “I think it’s healthy, but I think at the end of the day that everyone’s going to unite behind the Republican nominee simply because everyone recognizes what the ultimate goal here is — which is to elect someone who calls them self a Republican.”
A primary favors a candidate that can create a large campaign organization, something Perriello did last year in defeating long term Republican Rep. Virgil Goode. Primaries also bring more people into the candidate selection process, including those in the military who can vote by absentee ballots. But because Virginia doesn’t require party registration, Democrats will be able to vote in the GOP primary.
The choice to hold a primary will allow Democrats to pick the Republican nominee, something that Perriello seems to be trying to take advantage of.
“A primary, many people believe, has a bigger access to more people,” said 5th District Republican Party Chairman Tucker Watkins. “A convention is easier to limit it to just Republicans … You have to decide which you think is a better way to nominate the candidate. Obviously the 32 voting members of the 21 party units across the district thought it would be better to let the Democrats nominate our candidates. I feel kind of silly now that we didn't think the Democrats would take advantage of the process. That Perriello is smart. He went to a good college."
But Perriello will also face a frontal assault on his record by several conservative candidates who believe that he his too liberal to represent the Republican Party.
“They have just chosen the best way to elect a RINO to that seat,” said Tea Party and FairTax activist Brad Rees. RINO is an acronym for “Republican In Name Only,” and it’s a label Perriello will have to shed over the next six months if he hopes to rally the GOP behind his nomination. Already, GOP candidate Robert Hurt has referred to Perriello as a liberal because his votes to raise taxes are larger than Hurt's votes to raise taxes.
“I don’t even know what that means,” Hurt said in response. “I am a Republican! Andy said the nomination was mine! Mine!
Perriello, for his part, dismissed that idea that he is anything but a true conservative. He received a top rating, he noted, from the National Rifle Association in his 2008 run for Congress. And he voted against federal funding of abortion in the health care reform bill.
"I am proud to have reduced taxes," he said. "My very first bill, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, was signed into law six weeks after it was introduced as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill provides for a tax credit of up to $2,500 for tuition and related expenses (including textbooks, for the first time) to help middle-class families afford college and allow displaced workers to attend community college in preparation for re-entry into the workforce. And I'm proud to have fought against unbalanced budgets."
Perriello also said fiscal responsibility is a “signature issue” for him.
The NRCC was quick to respond to complaints from conservative activists that a match up between Democrat Tom Perriello and Republican Tom Perriello wouldn't be a fair election.
“We are fortunate to have a strong field of GOP candidates who are more interested in serving their country than serving themselves, a la Glenn Nye ,” said Sere. “No one likes an empty suit, and Nye — who has quickly developed a reputation on both sides of the aisle for shameless political posturing — is looking more and more like a one-term congressman with each passing day. The good citizens of the 5th District should just be thankful that they are not represented by Glenn Nye.”