Rep. Paul Trible (R-Va.) has met with staff members of the Republican Senate campaign committee to discuss running next year for the seat now held by Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. of Virginia, the only independent in the Senate.
Committee executive director Vincent Breglio said yesterday that he and political director Susan Bryant met with Trible about two weeks ago at the congressman's request.
Breglio said the pair told Trible about accounting and legal advice available and advised him that a Republican candidate could count on getting "up to the maximum limits" permitted by federal election law. The Federal Election Commission is expected to adopt new regulations later this year.
Trible said yesterday he is not yet prepared to announce a challenge of the two-terms senator, the son of the founder of Virginia's once-powerful Byrd political dynasty. But he predicted that "the Republican party will put forward a candidate in 1982. I'd like to see Harry Byrd be that Republican candidate, and he'd have my full support."
If Byrd retires, "I'd be interested," Trible said. But he added: "I don't find a three-way race very appealing and my intention is not to oppose Harry Byrd."
Trible, 35, a three-term representative from Newport News, said that "if we learned anything" from last weekend's raucous GOP state convention, in which delegates rejected the hand-picked choice of party leaders for lieutenant governor, "it is that the rank-and-file make convention decisions. They are in the business of nominating and electing candidates. And they want a candidate [in 1982]. Only time will tell" who that will be, Trible said.
Byrd, 66, was appointed to the Senate as a Democrat in 1965, elected to the seat the next year, again as a Democrat, and reelected as an independent in 1970 and 1976.
The conservative-voting Byrd has been under pressure from both parties in recent years. During the Carter administration, some Democrats wanted to remove him from the Democratic caucus, to end the practice by which he maintained rank on committees in return for adding to their majority.
This year, with the Republicans in control of the Senate, the not-so-subtle message from the GOP is to join the new majority or face an election challenge next year.
Richard Richards, GOP national Chairman who keynoted the state party convention last week, at which Richards was the keynoter, talked with Trible at the convention, but Trible said the 1982 race was not discussed.
Richards outlined his party's dilemma during a recent luncheon with Washington Post reporters. The party doesn't want to give any one a free ride, he said, but it also isn't anxious to pour big money into a campaign to defeat someone "who already is voting our way."