In Northern Virginia, GOP suffers strangulation by triangulation


By Kenric Ward | Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A three-way contest has complicated Republican efforts to flip Democrat Mark Herring‘s state Senate seat that straddles Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

SPOILER ALERT: Republican-turned-independent Joe May boosts Democrats’ chances in Senate District 33.

Republicans had a sporting chance to turn District 33 red after Herring was narrowly elected Virginia’s attorney general. But party infighting triggered an independent run by former GOP state Delegate Joe May.

May, who was bounced from his own seat last year, is a moderate with a weakness for higher taxes. Tea partyers deride him as a Republican in Name Only — a RINO.

No one has ever accused John Whitbeck of being a RINO. And the attorney won the Republican nomination to face Democrat Jennifer Wexton, another lawyer, in Tueday’s special election.

How Whitbeck secured the nomination rankled some Republicans. By holding a single mass meeting in Sterling, instead of conducting the usual series of local “firehouse primaries,” the party forced voters to travel farther to participate. Many never made the weeknight trip.

May had no trouble gathering 843 signatures to get his name on the ballot as an independent. That figure represented more votes than either GOP candidate garnered at the mass meeting.

A career engineer who developed the yellow first-down line used on televised football games, May says he’s waging a grassroots campaign.

“I plan to knock on thousands of doors across the district,” he vowed.

Wexton, meanwhile, has taken to the airwaves with a nightly advertising blitz.

None of this bodes well for Whitbeck or Virginia Republicans at large.

Just as Robert Sarvis, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, siphoned enough conservative votes to hand the governorship to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, May’s independent run splinters the GOP’s chances.

Would May, who touts his “unique perspective” as a lawmaker, even caucus with the Republicans? He did not respond to that question from

Far from the triangular torture in Northern Virginia, Republican Wayne Coleman wages a heated recount battle on the Eastern Shore, where Democrat Lynwood Lewis was certified the winner by nine votes in Senate District 6. The recount could take two weeks.

Though he carried Norfolk, Lewis lost his home county of Accomack, giving the GOP an opening.

If Republicans win just one of the two Senate contests, they will break the body’s 20-20 deadlock. If Lewis holds on, and if Wexton purchases a win in SD33, Democrats will take effective control, with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam casting tie-breaking votes.

That job used to belong to Republican Bill Bolling.

Speaking of the ex-lieutenant governor and the “independent” May, the Washington Times editorialized:

“Mr. May’s bid reflects the flavor of the sour grapes that Bolling imbibed when he petulantly refused to endorse (Ken Cuccinelli) in the general election.

“To be sure, there’s enough blame to spread among Republicans if they lose.”

Kenric Ward is chief of’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

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