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Va. Delegate To Drop Lt. Gov. Campaign

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page B06

Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun) plans to announce today that he is dropping his run for lieutenant governor of Virginia and will instead focus on his campaign for reelection to the House of Delegates, the six-term delegate said yesterday.

May said he made the decision after a long conversation with leaders in the House, who persuaded him that running for statewide office could jeopardize his House seat, which he had planned to defend simultaneously.

"You can't serve two masters," he said last night in a telephone interview. "It became very apparent that I had to choose, and I would much prefer that I continue on with my House of Delegates seat."

May, 67, will be joined at a courthouse announcement in Leesburg by House Speaker William J. Howell, a Republican from Stafford County, and House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith of Salem. The two will endorse May for his House seat in the June Republican primary.

"We candidly need Joe in the House," Howell said. "He's a very bright guy, a very capable guy. Joe would be a hard person to replace."

May was considered a long shot for the Republican nomination for the statewide office. He would have faced a crowded field that includes Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover) and Sean T. Connaughton, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, both of whom have raised far more money.

Howell said he had "several long talks" with May in which he encouraged him to focus on his race for the House. May, an engineer and inventor, chairs the House Science and Technology Committee. He is also vice chairman of the Transportation Committee and sits on the Appropriations Committee.

"I'm in what I consider an important position in the House, and I wanted to make sure it was properly defended," May said.

Howell's support is particularly significant because last year, May was one of the 17 House Republicans who broke ranks with the speaker, allying with Republicans in the Senate to support a plan to raise taxes and invest in state services. May at first opposed the plan, and his turnaround came just two weeks after he announced that he was running for statewide office.

Howell said that the tax vote is fully in the past and that he plans to support all Republican incumbents against primary opponents.

"You'll never find someone who agrees with all your votes 100 percent of the time," he said. "If he can forgive me for my vote, I can forgive him for his."

Longtime supporter J. Randall Minchew, chairman of the Loudoun Republican Committee, called May a "favorite son of Loudoun" and said his decision not to seek higher office was "bittersweet" for him.

"He's probably one of the brightest guys in the House," he said. "He's very mature, very stable."

May will face Leesburg lawyer Christopher Oprison in the June primary. Oprison has said that Loudoun voters were turned off by May's 2004 vote to raise taxes.

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