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Loyola picks up Tea Party endorsement in 2nd district GOP primary

The Hampton Roads Tea Party is wading into the Republican primary contest in Virginia's 2nd congressional district, endorsing businessman Ben Loyola as the best GOP candidate to take on Rep. Glenn Nye (D) in November.

With the June 8 primary less than two weeks away, the activist group's board announced its decision Wednesday after vetting all five Republicans in the field.

"After thoroughly and thoughtfully evaluating the GOP candidates vying for the Second District nod, the Board has decided to make a clear declaration of its support for Mr. Loyola," said Karen Miner Hurd, the founder and chairwoman of the party.

Hurd portrayed the decision as not just an endorsement of Loyola but also a public repudiation of auto dealer Scott Rigell, the apparent frontrunner and favorite of the state and national Republican establishment. Rigell's own polling shows him with a huge lead in the race -- both on the straight ballot test and in name identification -- and Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) is backing his bid.

But some conservatives see trouble signs in Rigell's record. He donated $1,000 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008, later explaining that he considered Obama to be the lesser of two evils in his primary against Hillary Clinton. And Rigell's car dealerships participated in the "cash for clunkers" program that many on the right disliked.

"Initially, the Board had no intention of making an endorsement in the 2nd District Congressional GOP primary," Hurd said Wednesday. "However, we started getting calls and e-mails from our members, asking which candidate to support, especially as the members became aware of front-runner Scott Rigell's donation to Obama and his past support for a sales tax increase and other issues which are deal-breakers for many of our members. ... We feel very strongly that the 'Republican political machine' in Hampton Roads needs to be defeated."

The Hampton Roads Tea Party has roughly 2,000 members, according to Hurd. Yet it's not clear whether the group's endorsement will be enough to move the needle in the contest, given Rigell's wide financial advantage. Both Loyola and defense consultant Bert Mizusawa have loaned money to their campaigns, but it's unlikely that either man can match the donations Rigell has raked in. Businessman Scott Taylor and construction contractor Ed Maulbeck are also running for the GOP nomination.

By Ben Pershing  |  May 26, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Loyola , Ben Pershing , Glenn Nye , Scott Rigell  
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