Two of the state’s top Republicans — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — asked an independent running for a Southside Senate seat to drop out and pave the way for the GOP candidate.
Jeff Evans, a longtime Republican activist and former Carroll County supervisor, began running as an independent in June after Sen. Bill Stanley (R) moved into the district to face incumbent, Democrat Sen. Roscoe Reynolds.
Evans was already running as a Republican, but left the party when GOP leaders rallied around Stanley. Political observers believe Evans will pull support away from Stanley and help Reynolds.
Evans confirmed the calls from Bolling and Cuccinelli when he was contacted Thursday. Cuccinelli has called multiple times and Bolling called once prior to last week’s deadline to remove a candidate’s name from the November ballot, he said.
“I have a right to run’’ Evans said. “It comes down to principle. I will not be run off.”
Evans said he has been told that if he drops out he would be instrumental in choosing which GOP senators sit on which committees if the Republicans win the majority in the Senate.
Stanley said in an interview that he was not aware of the calls.
Bolling’s chief of staff Randy Marcus declined to comment on private conversations.
“Sen. Stanley understands how to create jobs, and he has worked closely with Gov. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bolling to restore economic opportunity to Southern and Southwest Virginia,’’ Marcus said. “The citizens of Southern and Southwest Virginia need Sen. Stanley’s leadership in the state Senate and Lt. Gov. Bolling is committed to do what he can to support his election.”
Cuccinelli’s political director Noah Wall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Evans and Stanley said they met for lunch in Martinsville in May before Stanley announced his candidacy.
Evans said Stanley urged him to drop out and said he would help recoup his campaign costs and perhaps find a campaign job for his son, who has been working on his father’s campaign. Stanley said he informed Evans he would be running, and offered to help him raise money to pay off his debts by holding a fundraiser.
Republican leaders — including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and U.S. Senate candidate George Allen — have been campaigning hard for Stanley as the GOP looks to take back the chamber in November.
Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City), the Republican leader in the Senate, did not return phone calls this week.
Stanley (Franklin) announced in May that he would move and seek reelection in November in the newly redrawn 20th district currently held by Reynolds (Martinsville). It is the first time in two decades a pair of Virginia senators are competing with one another in a general election.
Stanley’s Southside Virginia district was split into four during the redistricting process, with 40 percent of his old district drawn into the one Reynolds holds.
Stanley won a special election earlier this year. Reynolds has been in the Senate since 1997.
Evans, a pastor and former state trooper, ran as a Republican against Reynolds in 2007.