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Stuart earns GOP nod in Senate race

May 20, 2007 12:36 am

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Stuart

BY CHELYEN DAVIS
BY CHELYEN DAVIS

Westmoreland County lawyer Richard Stuart won the Republican nomination yesterday for the 28th District state Senate seat, defeating three more-conservative candidates.

Stuart received 1,068 votes in the party canvass to choose a replacement for retiring Sen. John Chichester. The most conservative candidate, John Van Hoy, was second with 776.

Chichester endorsed Stuart and donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. House Speaker Bill Howell backed him, as well.

According to unofficial returns, Stuart captured his native Northern Neck, winning all of those localities except King George County. Van Hoy won King George, Stafford and Fauquier counties.

Jon Myers was third, with 446 votes. Joe Graziano received 316.

The 28th District Republican Committee will officially certify the votes at its next meeting.

Stuart will face Democrat Albert Pollard Jr., a former delegate from Lancaster County, in November's general election. Stuart has donated money to Pollard's campaigns in the past.

Reached by phone yesterday, Stuart said he campaigned hard and hopes the more conservative Republicans in the district will back him.

"Hopefully, we will all work together now," he said.

Stuart said his campaign against Pollard will begin in earnest tomorrow. He believes that being from the Northern Neck, like Pollard, will be "a distinct advantage" since populous Stafford County leans Republican already.

Stuart was the only GOP candidate not from Stafford, and finished third in the county yesterday. Myers won North Stafford, his home turf, with 181 votes, followed by Graziano with 154 and Van Hoy with 143.

Stuart got only 68 votes in North Stafford, but edged Van Hoy 181-179 in southern Stafford. Myers got 128 votes in the southern precinct; Graziano received 72.

Stuart said he felt the support of Chichester and Howell, along with that of Northern Neck Del. Rob Wittman, helped him.

Chichester has held the seat for nearly 30 years, but announced earlier this year that he will retire at the end of this term.

Chichester's fiscal philosophy--his willingness to raise taxes to put more money into state services--has long angered anti-tax conservatives, both in the 28th District and statewide.

The race for the nomination quickly became a struggle between those conservatives and moderates who felt a candidate more in line with Chichester's beliefs would give the party a better chance in November.

The result was four candidates and an intraparty fight over how to pick the nominee. The party eventually chose what is called a "firehouse primary," which differs from a regular primary by limiting the hours and polling locations and requiring voters to pledge loyalty to the GOP.

The conservative establishment backed Van Hoy early on, with support coming from 28th District party Chairman Russ Moulton, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former Gov. Jim Gilmore.

Chichester and Howell teamed up to support Stuart, and Stuart received campaign money from Senate allies of Chichester such as William Wampler, Ken Stolle and Tommy Norment.

Van Hoy said he wishes Stuart were more conservative, but he likes his rival and will support him in the fall. Myers said he also will support the nominee.

"The reason I got into the race was because the Senate needs to be more conservative," Van Hoy said. "So now the challenge is, let's see if we can convince Richard if the right way to govern is a little more fiscally conservative."

Graziano, who also ran as a conservative, said he was disappointed that the candidate who shares Chichester's views won.

"I guess that's a victory for Senator Chichester. It's a shame," Graziano said. "I'm more disappointed that once again, we don't have a Republican nominee that actually reflects the values of the party."

Chelyen Davis: 804/782-9362
Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com



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