HARRISONBURG — If local Republicans in the House of Delegates face opposition in this year’s election, the Virginia Conservative Victory Project will be around to help.
Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, announced the formation of the group late last week. Its membership is still in the works, but the purpose will be to endorse and help fund conservative candidates running for the House.
All 100 seats are up for re-election in November. Delegates serve two-year terms.
“Conservatives view this [past] session as a disappointment, and my feeling is the best way to make sure conservative legislation passes through the House is to elect more conservative delegates,” said Cline, who also serves as an assistant Rockingham County commonwealth’s attorney.
Conservatives’ dismay with this year’s General Assembly session was largely due to the passage of a transportation funding plan that included numerous tax increases.
The main goal of the victory project is to help fend off Democratic challengers to GOP members seeking re-election — or tout Republicans vying for Democratic seats — and find conservative replacements for Republicans who are retiring, including some who voted for the road plan, Cline said.
In a statement, Jody Murphy, director of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, said, “This is just another indicator that the Republican Party is more divided than ever.”
Still, the GOP holds a significant advantage on Democrats in the House: 67-32 at the end of the 2013 session. The 100th seat is held by an independent.
Right now, at least, delegates who represent Harrisonburg and Rockingham County — Tony Wilt, Todd Gilbert, Steve Landes and Rob Bell, all of whom are Republicans — face no opposition to their anticipated re-election bids this year.
Bell, R-Albemarle, may not get a chance to represent the Elkton area of Rockingham County again because he is seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general. Bell’s opponent for the GOP nomination is Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.
Republicans will select nominees for statewide office during a party convention on May 18. If Bell gets the nod, he cannot simultaneously run for the House, opening his seat to a newcomer.
Obenshain, meanwhile, does not have to run for re-election until 2015, so he could keep his seat in the General Assembly while running for attorney general. He would have to step down from the Senate if he became attorney general.
Cline’s victory project is not endorsing candidates for statewide office, he said. He has already publicly backed Obenshain for attorney general.
If Bell loses the nomination and runs for delegate again, Cline said he would support the incumbent.
“I’ll be happy to work with him and support him,” he said. “He is truly one of the conservative leaders in the House.”