- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

RICHMOND | A veteran Republican state legislator from Virginia’s rural Southside region has filed to challenge Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello’s bid for a second term.

State Sen. Robert Hurt of Pittsylvania declared himself a candidate Wednesday for the 5th District seat his party lost last fall. After a recount, Mr. Perriello unseated Rep. Virgil Goode by 727 votes out of 317,076 cast.

Democrats won Mr. Goode’s seat and two others that the GOP had held to claim six of Virginia’s 11 U.S. House seats as the state backed Barack Obama, the first Democrat to carry the state in a presidential race since 1964.

Mr. Perriello’s district includes the economically hard-hit region of closed clothing and furniture mills and tobacco farms near the North Carolina state line, Mr. Hurt’s political base, and extends north to the affluent and Democratic-leaning Charlottesville and University of Virginia area, Mr. Perriello’s base.

The National Republican Campaign Committee considers the 5th District GOP territory as one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable seats in the 2010 midterm congressional elections. The NRCC began almost daily attacks on Mr. Perriello even before he took office, and continued on Wednesday, calling him an “Ivy-bred liberal” out of step with the district.

The NRCC is also targeting Democratic Rep. Glenn Nye, who unseated Republican Rep. Thelma Drake last fall in Virginia’s 2nd District.

Mr. Perriello is an indefatigable campaigner who in August braved sweltering heat and crowds viscerally hostile toward Democratic-backed health care reforms at town hall-style forums he held in every locality in his district. Even detractors commended Mr. Perriello for holding the events and listening as they expressed often vehement opposition.

Mr. Hurt, 40, brings the most formidable resume yet into a race already swarming with Republicans vying for the chance to challenge Mr. Perriello. He was elected in 2001 to the House of Delegates, then won a four-year term two years ago to fill the seat of former state Sen. Charles Hawkins, Chatham Republican.

Tucker Watkins, the GOP 5th District Committee chairman, said the decision will be made after this fall’s gubernatorial election whether to decide the Republican nomination through a primary or a districtwide convention.

Mr. Goode, a lawyer in Rocky Mount, has ruled out an effort to take back his old seat. Among other Republicans who Mr. Watkins said have either filed or have made plain their intent to run: Feda Morton, a Fluvanna County GOP activist; airline pilot Mike McPadden, businessman Lawrence Verga and Board of Supervisors member Ken Boyd, all of Albemarle County; and Bradley Rees, a factory worker from Bedford.