Establishment Wins One in Virginia

In December of 2006, Virginia's 5th congressional district, long held by a Republican, was thrown into question for the GOP.

That's when then-Rep. Virgil Goode sent out an e-mail to supporters complaining about new Congressman-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim to be sworn into the U.S. Congress, and his intention to use the Koran for his swearing-in ceremony. Goode complained that we need to stop illegal immigration and not allow the Koran in Congress.

Well, those fateful words handed the seat to current Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello in 2008, but now Republicans are trying to take it back, and Democrats will try to drive a wedge between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment.

Robert Hunt, the establishment-favored candidate, won the primary for this seat tonight to challenge the vulnerable Perriello, who has been a target of the National Republican Congressional Committee since he entered Congress.

Hunt also carries what might be a kiss of death this election cycle: a voting record that includes support for a tax increase. TPMDC's Christina Bellantoni writes:
...if Hurt wins, the Democrats will slam him on the same topic that Republicans used to target him in the primary - a 2004 vote for a $1.4 billion tax increase under then-Gov. Mark Warner (D). The Democrats suggest Hurt's tax record is fair game and that it puts his credibility in question. They'll also use the critiques from his GOP rivals to bolster their own argument.

The main criticism of Hurt is that he isn't fiscally conservative enough--a charge he rejects. But if divisions exist among Republicans in 2010, it's over fiscal conservatism.

Perriello will enter the general election with a huge cash advantage over Hurt; as of their last federal disclosures, Perriello had $1.5 million to Hurt's $121,000. Since then, Hurt has been spending, and Perriello has been taking in donations.

Even as Perriello has looked vulnerable, Hurt will have a lot to overcome if the GOP is to take this seat in the fall.