Saying he wanted to avoid a likely “nasty” Republican contest, Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade plans to run for a newly Democratic-leaning open seat in Virginia rather than challenge Rep. Dave Brat.
Wade will most likely face state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (Henrico), the only Democrat thus far to declare interest in the seat being vacated by Rep. Randy Forbes (R).
Forbes, meanwhile, is moving districts in hopes of replacing retiring Rep. Scott Rigell (R). His current seat became far more Democratic under a new court-imposed map correcting Republican lines deemed unconstitutional.
“I don’t think it’s impossible” to win under the new lines, said Wade, whose decision was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While he lives in Brat’s district, he grew up and goes to church in the district he hopes to represent. He says he’s well-known in the area and can reach across the aisle.
Wade says he thinks he could have won against Brat as well. However, the contest would have been a convention rather than a primary, and he said he didn’t want to put his allies through that process.
“I would have had to bring a lot of people to the convention, and I didn’t want to bring a lot of friends to the convention.”
He recalled the state convention that preceded Brat’s victory over then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014.
“They were very nasty,” he said. “A lot of [Brat’s] followers haven’t been exactly nice to me.”
He said he was told that Brat supporters were going to start a petition to get him removed from office, and he saw online postings soliciting unflattering photos of him.
“I’m not scared of them,” he said. “I just think I have a better opportunity in the Fourth.”
The 4th Congressional District Wade hopes to win became 11 percent more African American and 12 percent more Democratic under the map chosen by a federal court. Brat’s district also became slightly more Democratic and lost two of his conservative strongholds, leaving him more vulnerable to a primary challenge.
In Congress, Wade said he would like to focus on mental health, substance abuse and correctional reform. As manager of a jail himself and a past president of the American Corrections Association, he said, he could bring much-needed perspective to the criminal justice debate.
He would also like to reform privacy laws that he thinks make it too difficult for parents to help mentally ill adult children.
“I would like to be the corrections voice and make very constructive changes that would benefit both inmates and the field of corrections,” Wade said.