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Connolly vs. Herrity?

Amy Gardner

Although most conventional wisdom rates Gerald E. Connolly of Fairfax County as the safest of three freshmen Democrats elected to Congress in Virginia last year, that wisdom rests on a rematch with Republican Keith S. Fimian in next year's midterm elections.

But what if Pat Herrity, the county supervisor from West Springfield, gets in the race? Herrity's near-win over Sharon S. Bulova in February for county board chairman sent a pretty strong ripple through Fairfax's political community (and served as a harbinger of things to come, given Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell's win in Fairfax on Nov. 3).

Herrity said this week that he's been approached numerous times by supporters to consider entering the race. He has not made a decision, he said.

Connolly trounced Fimian in 2008. Connolly was fresh from a re-election victory as county chairman the year before; his name recognition was vast -- and Fimian's was nonexistent. And he successfully portrayed Fimian, the founder of the nation's largest home-inspection business and a member of the conservative Catholic organization Legatus, as too far to the right for the 11th District.

But Connolly also benefited tremendously from a surge of voters who turned out for President Obama -- a surge not expected to show up a year from now (just as it didn't on Nov. 3). Republicans say they are eager to take advantage of Republican energy by mounting a serious challenge to Connolly. In addition to Herrity and Fimian, GOP sources say Del. Timothy D. Hugo has also been approached to consider jumping in.

The 11th District encompasses southern, central and eastern Fairfax County, all of Fairfax City and a big swath of Prince William County.

In eastern Prince William, precincts with large African American populations voted heavily for Connolly last year. Precincts to the west with strong Republican histories voted heavily for Fimian. Although a year is a very long time in politics, Connolly has to be concerned about how Prince William will perform without Obama at the top of the ticket and with Republican energy potentially still high.

In Fairfax, Connolly has more advantages. But Herrity, a first-term supervisor, has strong name recognition too -- he is the son of the late John F. "Jack" Herrity, the former county chairman and namesake of one of Fairfax County's busiest parkways. He is popular with the county's business community.

One disadvantage Herrity would bring to the race is money. Fimian is independently wealthy and has promised to spend his own resources. Herrity has no such fortune, and he'd be competing with business donors who historically have supported Connolly.

By Amy Gardner  |  November 18, 2009; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Election 2010 , Gerald E. Connolly  
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