Armstrong mulls statewide run despite election defeat


House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, right, talks to Jim Bier in Rocky Mount in August. (Alexa Welchedlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“Certainly I need some time to decide what I’m going to do,’’ Armstrong said in an interview. “I haven’t made any decisions to run or not to run.’’

Armstrong said he wants to talk to his family about whether to run for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general, but would probably not campaign for the House of Delegates again.

Republicans eliminated his largely rural Southside district when they redrew legislative maps in the spring so he moved to a nearby district and mounted a surprisingly formidable challenge against Republican Del. Charles Poindexter.

But Armstrong angered some members of his own party for statements he uttered on the campaign trail as he sought to win voters in the newly drawn conservative district, including distancing himself from President Obama last week and stressing that he is “pro-life, pro-guns” in a TV ad.

Poindexter, like other Republicans, tied Armstrong to an increasingly unpopular Obama in TV ads and campaign mailers in their high-profile, expensive race. “If Ward Armstrong thinks you need Obama, do you really need Ward Armstrong?” one ad asks.

In response, Armstrong released a TV ad: “That’s a stretch, Charles. I’m pro-life, pro-gun and I always put Virginia first.”

“I’m still a Democrat,’’ Armstrong said this week. “I’m proud to be a Democrat.”

So will he support Obama next year?

“I’m a supporter of Democratic candidates,’’ he said. “I never said I wouldn’t support the president...I don’t think a 30-second TV ad is going to change a career.’’

The outspoken and affable Armstrong had long been eyeing his chance to become speaker, but Republicans have steadily picked up seats in the House. They now have a commanding 68-member majority — the most in Virginia history.

Democrats lost all three statewide races in 2009. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who lost his party's nomination for governor, is widely expected to make another run in 2013.

Meanwhile, newly elected House Democrats will meet next week to pick a new leader. Possible replacements for Armstrong or for the No. 2 position of caucus chairman are: Dels. Mark Sickles (Fairfax), David Toscano (Charlottesville), David Englin (Alexandria) and Scott Surovell (Fairfax).

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