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In 2nd District, It's a Whole New Ballgame

But some GOP operatives, many of whom were watching the events from the Republican National Convention in New York, expressed concern that Ashe has had a long head start on Drake.

Ashe -- who unlike Drake has a campaign Web site, staff and bank account -- said he welcomed a new opponent.

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"In a lot of ways, this doesn't change the campaign," Ashe said. "We are still focused on making good on the promises that we all make to our veterans and their families. It's going to remain a strong campaign focused on veterans, transportation and education."

Ashe, who served as an active-duty Marine for seven years and then was recalled for two years just after Sept. 11, 2001, said he will continue to stress military issues.

Drake said that she, too, is familiar with and supportive of the military, and that her campaign will focus on regional and national security and the war on terrorism.

"I don't think you need to have served in the military to be someone who cares about the military," she said.

Republicans said that Drake will highlight the fact that Ashe has never held office. Del. Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach), a Drake supporter, called Ashe "a neophyte in politics."

Even though there are two months to go before the November elections, state political leaders have also begun thinking about the impact Schrock's decision might have on the 2005 state campaigns.

If Drake loses, she can keep her seat in the House of Delegates and run for reelection in 2005. But if she wins, Democrats said they believe they can retake the Norfolk House seat, which was previously held by a Democrat.

"We're optimistic about our chances and excited to try and pick up a Democratic seat," said Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. If Drake wins, he said, "we're going to pursue it aggressively."

Even McDonnell said his party would have a tough time. "It will be a dogfight," he said.

Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu and Chris L. Jenkins contributed to this report.

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