Businessman Paul Hirschbiel said Monday that he would explore a possible 2012 campaign against freshman Rep. Scott Rigell (R) in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, giving Democrats a potentially strong candidate in a key seat.
Rigell won the 2nd district — which includes portions of Hampton and Norfolk, as well as Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore — in 2010 by beating Rep. Glenn Nye, one of three congressional Democrats in the state who were ousted. Nye announced in early July that he would not seek a rematch with Rigell, leaving the Democratic field wide open.
“As a businessman, I’ve helped create jobs in our neighborhood and as a community leader I’ve started bold educational initiatives that provide a bright future for Virginia’s youngest citizens,” Hirschbiel said in a statement Monday announcing his plans. “I look forward to meeting with people across Virginia’s Second Congressional District, listening to their concerns and working together to build a strong Hampton Roads and nation.”
Hirschbiel, who is originally from Norfolk, owns the Virginia Beach-based consulting firm Eden Capital. He previously served as the founding partner at the New York-based private equity firm Cornerstone Equity Investors. Hirschbiel also provided both formal and informal economic advice to Mark Warner’s (D) administration when he served as Virginia governor.
The possibility that Hirschbiel might be willing to put some of his own money into a campaign could make him attractive to Democrats, given that Rigell — who owns auto dealerships in the Hampton Roads area — is also wealthy and put nearly $3 million of personal funds into his 2010 race.
Though Rigell beat Nye by 11 points in 2010, the 2nd district can be competitive under the right circumstances. President Obama won it by 2 points in 2008, and Democrats are hopeful that his presence atop the ticket in 2012 will again boost turnout — particularly among African-Americans.
The National Republican Congressional Committee wasted little time before attacking Hirschbiel, accusing him of “flip-flopping” because he has contributed money to Republicans in the past, including George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 1999 and Mitt Romney’s in 2007.
“Hirschbiel may be dressing up as a Democrat for his announcement today, but who knows what costume he'll be wearing come Election Day," said NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola.
Virginia has yet to complete its congressional redistricting process, but the 2nd district may end up somewhat more favorable to Republicans under the next map than it is currently.
This post has been updated since it was first published.