By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010; A09
Republicans in Northern Virginia decided Tuesday to create a rerun of 2008, nominating Oakton businessman Keith Fimian to face Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D) for the second straight cycle.
The contest in the 11th District, where Fimian beat Fairfax County Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (Springfield) 56 to 44 percent, was one of five GOP primaries held across the commonwealth and one of the most closely watched.
In a statement, Fimian congratulated Herrity on a hard-fought race and said he would "campaign on the exact same issues that carried me to victory in the primary -- issues like a commitment to turning our economy around, stopping wasteful spending, and getting taxes under control."
Herrity said upon conceding, "I entered this race to retire Gerry Connolly, fire [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and retake the Hill, and I remain committed to that goal."
Outside of the 11th -- where Fimian was viewed as the more conservative candidate -- the initial results Tuesday night suggested that candidates backed by the party establishment performed well against those supported by tea party activists.
In the 5th District, state Sen. Robert Hurt (Pittsylvania) beat six other GOP candidates, scoring 48 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Hurt will face first-term Rep. Tom Perriello (D) in November.
A similar scenario played out in the Hampton Roads-based 2nd District, where auto dealer Scott Rigell was declared the winner of a six-person field angling to take on freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D). Rigell had the support of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), helping him overcome a volley of attacks on his conservative credentials. Democrats noted that Rigell was hovering around 40 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting, a sign that Republicans in the district were less-than-unified.
In the 1st District, Rep. Rob Wittman prevailed easily over Catherine Crabill, who received notoriety for making controversial comments and had some tea party support but barely raised any money for her campaign.
In the 8th District, Iraq war veteran Patrick Murray edged out lawyer Matthew Berry for the right to face Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D) in November. The 10-term incumbent will be the heavy favorite.
The contest between Fimian and Herrity grew increasingly negative as the race came to a close. Fimian attacked Herrity relentlessly for his legislative record, accusing him of voting to raise taxes and being insufficiently conservative. Herrity hit back, noting -- as Connolly did in 2008 -- that Fimian's company, U.S. Inspect, faced a federal tax lien in 2005. Herrity also argued that he was the only candidate in the race with detailed legislative proposals, particularly on transportation.
The 11th District's recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative.
Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of Herrity's campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County
Virginia is expected to host four competitive House races in November, ensuring that both parties will pour significant time and money into swaying voters.
In a memo Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee wrote, "Arguably, there is no state more ripe for a congressional Republican takeover than Virginia." The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called Rigell a "millionaire used-car salesman" and Hurt "a career politician with a record of saying anything to get elected."
Nye and Perriello were elected by narrow margins in the Democratic wave of 2008. Republicans hope both will be vulnerable in a cycle when the GOP is on the upswing and President Obama isn't on the ballot to drive turnout.
In the 9th District, Rep. Rick Boucher (D) will face state House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (Salem) in the fall. Republicans selected Griffith at a district convention last month.
Staff writer Derek Kravitz contributed to this report.