wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Local

Virginia Politics
Posted at 12:38 PM ET, 10/24/2011

Some House Democrats looking for new minority leader

Even if House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong wins his uphill battle against Del. Charles Poindexter (R) next month, he may lose his post as minority leader.
House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong

Some House Democrats say they will not support him after he distanced himself from President Obama and stressed that he is “pro-life, pro-guns” in a TV ad.

“It is very difficult to justify him as leader of our party,” Del. David Englin (Alexandria) said.

Some delegates have complained in the last year that Armstrong — who is considering a run for state office in 2013 -- seemed to focus too much on his future and did not help Democrats this election cycle.

Other names that have been mentioned as possible replacements for Armstrong for the No. 2 position of caucus chairman are: Dels. Mark Sickles (Fairfax), David Toscano (Charlottesville), Scott Surovell (Fairfax) and Englin.

In a recent interview, Armstrong (Henry) dismissed talk about the Democrats’ leadership elections, which will take place after the November general election. (Read our story Sunday about the election between Armstrong and Poindexter.)

“There’s always been a couple people looking for my job,’’ he said.

Armstrong said he “probably” wants to continue to serve as minority leader — a job he has held since 2007 — but he hasn’t focused on it.

“That is the furthest thing from my mind,’’ he said. “Every ounce and breath of my being is concentrating on winning the election on Nov. 8. When I win that, then I’ll turn my attention to the minority leader post.”

Del. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) said he “likes and respects’’ Armstrong but will not support him for minority leader.

“How can he diss the president and then want to run for minority leader?” he asked.

Spruill said he is not interested in running for the position himself. Englin said some people have asked him to consider running for either minority leader or caucus chairman, a post held by Del. Ken Plum (Fairfax). Englin said he’s “open” to it.

Poindexter, like other Republicans, has 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.”

Armstrong has declined to say whether he would support Obama next year.

“I am who I am and I am for what I stand for,’’ he said in a recent interview . “I am interested in being the best delegate that I can be in Richmond. I’m about a race that’s going on in 2011; 2012 will be 2012.”

Armstrong’s views may help him in his conservative district, but may hurt him in a future statewide run.

He said he tried to help Democrats this election cycle by serving on the campaign committee that speaks weekly about strategy and policy, and recruiting candidates, but that the environment and redistricting made that very difficult. He also aid he raised about $2.5 million for the caucus the last four year, before his own race began.

He said he has not asked the party or caucus for any help for his own race, though that has left Plum and others largely on their own to raise money.

“Anyone with a competitive race is not expected to contribute,’’ he said. “What am I to do? Every member is entitled to fundraise and oversee their own re-election.”

Sen.Mark R. Warner (D)and former governor Tim Kaine, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate next year, have held a pair of fundraisers for Armstrong. Warner plans to visit Franklin County for a rally the Saturday before the election.

But Armstrong has largely raised his $909,000 on his own. Democrats and the party have contributed $66,000.

“I will do it myself,’’ he said. “It’s enough of a sacrifice to ask them to get by without me fundraising.”

By  |  12:38 PM ET, 10/24/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company