- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

Three staunchly conservative Republican candidates are vying to replace Virginia Attorney General-elect Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II in a Northern Virginia state Senate district that had trended Democratic in recent years but came out solidly for Republicans this month.

Fairfax County’s 37th District supported President George W. Bush in 2004 but went Democratic for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2005 and supported Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in 2006 and 2008. President Obama won the district last year.

Mr. Cuccinelli, who won his seat by more than 2,000 votes in 2003, saw his margin of victory plummet to just over 100 votes in 2007, when he became the last remaining Republican state senator in Northern Virginia. But, according to unofficial election results from the Virginia Public Access Project, he handily took the district this year as part of a sweep that saw Republicans elected to the state’s top three posts.

Now the three candidates vying in a Dec. 1 primary to replace him are utilizing the same themes the conservative firebrand sounded during his campaigns.

Marianne Horinko, 48, who served as the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Mr. Bush, is running as a “staunch pro-life conservative.” The attorney and analytical chemist owns a small energy and environmental consulting business, which she said will help her propel common-sense legislation to help create private sector jobs.

“If you stick to your core values, honor, integrity and hard work, I think that appeals to voters of the 37th,” Mrs. Horinko said.

Steve Hunt, 51, said he is running because he believes in service to his community and hasn’t been happy with some of the widespread changes in the country.

A former at-large school board member and retired naval officer who currently works as an analyst for SAIC on a Department of Defense contract, Mr. Hunt said that if he wins he will “continue on the leadership Ken Cuccinelli has provided in Richmond.”

“Ken’s and my beliefs are pretty much aligned,” Mr. Hunt said. “I hope to go down to Richmond and stand for those beliefs as well as Ken has.”

Will Nance, 41, the executive director of a retirement community who worked on the campaign of President George H.W. Bush and then took a government job in the Treasury Department, said wants to help change the country’s trajectory.

Mr. Nance, who also worked with the Prison Fellowship Ministries, calls himself a Ronald Reagan Republican. The executive was quick to cast himself in Mr. Cuccinelli’s image.

“Everyone has a different style, but I think Ken and I definitely agree on almost every issue,” he said.

During the “firehouse primary,” Republicans can cast their vote at Centreville High School between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Voters must produce their identification and sign a pledge that they intend to support the Republican nominee going forward.

Whether another conservative state Senate candidate can win in Fairfax County remains to be seen.

Bob Holsworth, a former public-policy professor who runs the political Web site Virginia Tomorrow, said, “First you have to get the nomination. Conservatives win Republican nominations and that is certainly going to be the case in Ken Cuccinelli’s seat.”

On Thursday, Democratic Delegate David Marsden, who won a third term this month, announced his decision to run for the seat. The majority of Mr. Marsden’s House precinct lies within the boundaries of the 37th Senate District.

Mr. Marsden is the director of a consulting company that helps states and localities work with gangs and juvenile offenders. He worked in the juvenile court and detention center and was the chief deputy and acting director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice under former Govs. Mark Warner and James S. Gilmore III.

In Virginia, party nominees must be chosen at least 30 days before a general election. Gov. Tim Kaine intends to set Jan. 12 for the special election, his office said.

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