George Allen acting like a Senate candidate again

By Anita Kumar
Friday, January 21, 2011; B01

RICHMOND - Former senator George Allen has been calling Republican legislators and business leaders across the state to shore up support for his expected bid to reclaim his old job next year.

Allen, who may announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate as early as next week, has been lining up consultants, interviewing staff and searching for a campaign headquarters in Richmond, several sources said.

He is looking to return to the successes he had in the 1990s, surrounding himself with many of the same advisers and supporters he had during his days as Virginia governor and his first run for Senate.

Allen told The Washington Post last month that he would announce his decision soon and likely before Sen. James Webb (D) revealed whether he would run for reelection. But sources close to Allen, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on his plans, said that even if he announces his candidacy to supporters through an online video or he files his candidacy papers next week, as some have suggested, he probably wouldn't launch his campaign publicly until Thomas Jefferson's birthday - April 13 - the formal start of his two U.S. Senate races.

His candidacy would thrust him into a tough primary fight for the Republican nomination against several possible candidates claiming to be more conservative than he is and a possible rematch with Webb in what will be one of the most watched Senate races of the nation in 2012.

Allen, traveling on a week-long tour across the state this week with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, stopped at a suburban Richmond restaurant Wednesday to rally nearly 100 people. But he would not speak in detail about his plans.

"Stay tuned,'' Allen said. "It wouldn't be appropriate to be talking about it now. So my answer remains 'Stay tuned.' "

The Americans for Prosperity event - a sit-down lunch of pork, green beans and brownies - sounded a bit like a campaign event for Allen. Attendees, who sat amid "Socialism isn't cool'' signs, peppered him with questions about his views on No Child Left Behind, the imminent closure of the Joint Forces Command in Hampton Roads and health care.

"I hope to God he runs,'' said Marie Zajick, a Chesterfield County resident who had a "Cut spending'' sticker. "I just think he's the kind of man we need."

Since the start of the legislative session last week at the state Capitol, Allen has been calling Republican legislators - some he shares decades of history with.

Among them: House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell of Stafford; Del. Timothy D. Hugo of Fairfax County, the chairman of the House Republican caucus; Del Terry G. Kilgore of Scott; and Del. Kathy J. Byron of Lynchburg.

He called Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who volunteered for him when he was in college, and Del. S. Chris Jones of Suffolk, who as Suffolk mayor was one of the first elected officials to support Allen in a three-way primary for governor. "It was a good conversation,'' Jones said.

Del. Sal R. Iaquinto of Virginia Beach said Allen's office called to set up a time to talk by phone. The two have yet to speak, but Iaquinto said he doesn't know whom he would support in the Senate race. "He's a fine man,'' said Iaquinto.

Allen is talking to former advisers about rejoining him - lead consultant Boyd Marcus, adviser Dan Allen and pollster John McLaughlin, the sources said. Ben Marchi, the state director of Americans for Prosperity who announced recently that he is leaving the organization after three years, is expected to become an adviser, too. Marcus, McLaughlin and Dan Allen did not return calls for comment.

Allen is expected to open his campaign headquarters in Richmond - where it was for his first two statewide races. In 2006, he was criticized for moving his campaign headquarters from Richmond to Northern Virginia because some felt he was out of touch with the rest of the state. He was U.S. senator from 2001 to 2007.

Some conservatives and Allen's potential Republican rivals have criticized him as too moderate and part of the establishment. But Allen disputes that.

"I know my record,'' he said. "It's one of a conservative in Congress."

Allen said he supports proposals to require a balanced federal budget, a line-item veto requirement for the president, earmark reform and a repeal of the health-care overhaul.

Last month, Jamie Radtke, head of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, became the first Republican to jump in the race. Radtke, who did not seek a second term as tea party leader last month and who worked for Allen right out of college, challenged him to joint forums. He declined Wednesday to respond to her directly. "I've been having town hall meetings for many years - doing it this week," he said.

At least three others have said they are interested in running: Corey A. Stewart, head of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) and Bert Mizusawa, a businessman and lawyer who ran against Scott Rigell for a U.S. House seat but lost.

Webb said in December that he would announce a decision in the first quarter of this year. Webb spokesman Will Jenkins declined to comment this week, but Democrats are talking like Webb is running.

"George Allen spent six mediocre years in the Senate running for president and complaining about how bored he was," said Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia. "Assuming he makes it out of a competitive Republican primary, we're looking forward to a campaign comparing his record with Senator Jim Webb's leadership on national security, veterans issues and criminal justice."

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman and researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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