Freshman Nye gets GOP challenger in Va.

July 8, 2009

Businessman Scott Rigell said Wednesday that he will seek the seat of freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.) in 2010.

“As I look at it, I think there is a serious breach of duty taking place in Washington,” Rigell told The Hill. “And there are right now serious consequences taking place.”

Rigell plugs another important hole for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which has in recent days landed candidates to run against freshmen in New Mexico, Ohio, Florida and other states.

Nye is a top Republican target in 2010, as he represents a traditional swing district in Virginia Beach that was formerly held by Rep. Thelma Drake (R). Nye defeated Drake in 2008 by five points.

A spokesman for Nye declined to comment.

Rigell emerged after state Sen. Ken Stolle declined to run for the seat and instead opted to run for Virginia Beach sheriff. Rigell has been in talks with the national party, which is enthusiastic about his candidacy.

Along with announcing his candidacy Wednesday, Rigell announced the endorsements of Drake, state Sen. Frank Wagner, state Del. Sal Iaquinto, state Del. Bob Purkey, Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Bryant, Virginia Beach City Councilmen Ron Villanueva and Bill DeSteph, and Robert Martinez, the state’s former secretary of transportation.

Rigell, 49, is founder and president of Freedom Automotive and owns car dealerships throughout the Virginia Beach area. Republicans feel his business background and name ID from his dealerships make him formidable in the race against Nye.

A former Marine, he has been a consistent supporter of Republicans over the last decade-plus (with the notable exception of a contribution to President Obama last year) and was appointed to the state’s Motor Vehicle Board by then-Gov. George Allen (R).

Rigell won’t have a clear primary, though. Businessman Ed Maulbeck and Ben Loyola have recently filed for the race, and Marine veteran Chuck Smith has been in the race for months.

Nye’s political survival depends in large part on his ability to keep the Navy’s newest nuclear aircraft carrier from moving to Florida. He has been lobbying his colleagues hard and recently worked to momentarily get funding for the transfer of the carrier stripped from a bill.

Republicans lost Drake’s and two other seats in Virginia last year. Theyhave high hopes for recovering Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D) Charlottesville-based district, and have been relentless in pegging Perriello with his vote with Democrats on the recent energy bill, which could prove a political liability.

In that race, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) is weighing whether he wants to attempt a return to Congress.

The other seat Republicans lost in 2008 was in Northern Virginia, where Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) won an open-seat race after Rep. Tom Davis’s (R) retirement.
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