Freshman Rep. Tom Perriello said in an interview that it doesn’t matter which Republican candidate wins today’s primary election to challenge him in Virginia’s fifth Congressional district election in November because he’s been prepping for a major battle since winning his seat in the first place.
Perriello (D-VA) told me Monday night that Republican-affiliated groups began running ads against him soon after he unseated Rep. Virgil Goode (R) and that it was a given that his district would be a prime battleground for this fall’s midterm elections.
“We fought back,” he said.
As we’ve been reporting, state Sen. Robert Hurt is likely to capture the GOP party nod to challenge Perriello in the primary election today. Hurt, from the small town of Chatham, was the favorite candidate of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The designation helped him fundraise and pull ahead in the field of 7 candidates, but also made him a target of tea party-fueled contenders who try to paint him as a puppet of the Washington establishment.
In such a competitive district - voters there went 51%-48% for Sen. John McCain over Obama - Hurt is likely to get campaign appearances and money from big-name Republicans for the fall campaign. Perriello has amassed a more than $1.5 million war chest to spend and national Demcorats know this will be among the most intense campaigns as the GOP tries to win back the House.
“Our campaign right now is incredibly unified, strong and people powered,” Perriello said. He boasted a stronger volunteer base in the central and Southside Virginia district than Barack Obama had amassed there by this point of the hotly contested 2008 election cycle. They are deploying similar tactics - getting volunteers to make the case “neighbor to neighbor,” with 3-minute conversations to contrast 30-second ads blasting him on television, he said.