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Northern Virginia’s Hot Congressional Race

Going for the gold at the end of Fimian's Rainbow.

By 10.22.10

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The congressional battle in northern Virginia's 11th district is ablaze.

The sprightly local conservative paper, the Washington Examiner, just sprouted the headline on October 20, "Connolly-Fimian goes down to wire. Parties pour cash into key Va. Race." It seems that Republican Keith Fimian "raised more than $1 million between July and September, compared with [Democratic Congressman Gerry] Connolly's $418,000."

"With most of that money still in the bank, Fimian now rivals Connolly's $1.4 million war chest with just two weeks left in the campaign," writes the Examiner's David Sherfinski.

As I have written before on this site, if the Republicans can win in this suburban area outside of Washington, D.C., they will sweep the field nationally given the challenge of a Republican campaigning in a district with numerous federal workers and many others who work for businesses that support the government. It has a unique mix of affluence and a large, albeit very diverse, immigrant population.

The percent of minorities in the 11th district is 39.7 percent and will, no doubt, be the focus of a major mobilization effort as Democratic "base voters.

Republican businessman Keith Fimian is running against a one-term incumbent, Gerry Connolly, a career politician who mastered the intricacies of local county politics before entering Congress. Fimian lost resoundingly to Connolly in 2008 in the wake of Obama's win in the Commonwealth.

The Washington Post, the hegemon of the local media market, just endorsed Connolly. No surprise there. Moreover, the paper's local metro writer, Robert McCarthy, recently expressed skepticism that an anti-spending, pro-life candidate could win in such a district as the 11th, which is "flush with federal funds," as the headline put it.

The good news is that the Post has been relatively uninterested in the race so far, certainly compared to the recent gubernatorial race in which it went thermonuclear, throwing a fit about an old master's thesis written by now Republican governor several decades ago expressing socially conservative views. It literally printed dozens of articles, columns, editorials, features and other items expressing appropriate outrage over several weeks. Fortunately, the Republican, Bob McDonnell won the state and the 11th congressional district for that matter.

Contrary to Fimian's early private polling, the New York Times, has, for several weeks, posted on its Politics website something that appears to be a poll showing Connolly beating Fimian 51.4 to 46.2 percent. It put the chance of Connolly winning at 77.4 percent. There is very little explanation of the paper's methodology, other than a mysterious tag line stating that the data are "Based on polling, expert forecasts, fundraising, past election returns and other indicators..."

The Times does indicate that the March poll done for the Fimian campaign, directed at likely voters, showed him beating Connolly 40-35.

Notwithstanding Fimian's charge that Connolly supported Speaker Nancy Pelosi 97 percent of the time, as well as numerous tax increases both in Congress and Fairfax County government, the incumbent Democrat has been touting his support for extending the Bush tax cuts. This is shrewd in a superficial sort of way since the district is one of the wealthiest in the country. Yet, it is hard to believe that the typical affluent, well-educated voter will really see this as anything other than, to use the venerable cliché, an election-year ploy.

RealClearPolitics, the indispensable one-stop website for all things political, has consistently listed Virginia's 11th in the "Toss Up" category.

It is also good to see Tom Davis, the former moderate Republican congressman for the district, coming on board and signing a strong fundraising letter on behalf of Fimian which hit donors' mailboxes the middle of October. He had stayed out of the hard-fought primary. So far, Fimian's opponent in that race has yet to be heard from.

Subjective evaluations of political campaigns are not to be trusted, but there is certainly a much more upbeat tone to the Fimian campaign this time around.

Fimian has the confidence of a former football player, the money, the momentum and the will to take the fight to Connolly, who many in Fairfax County seem to believe has a kind of divine right to the seat.

I attended a very successful fundraiser, one of many the Fimian campaign has held. This one featured the Virginia Attorney General. It was well-attended and the crowd was enthusiastic.

Keith Fimian was in good form that night with a stump speech well-honed on the campaign trail.

Other fundraising events have featured the Governor and various sitting and former members of Congress and the Senate.

FreedomWorks PAC has endorsed Fimian, and the Republican Congressional Committee has elevated him to "Young Guns" status, which brings with it fundraising and other resources. The National Right to Life Committee has also done a targeted mailing in support of Fimian.

This being the United States in the age of the media circus, things will get very nasty in the home stretch. Fortunately, the GOP has a poised, competitive and well-financed candidate on the ticket in Virginia's 11th congressional district.

He is going for the gold at the end of Fimian's Rainbow.

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.