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McDonnell backs O'Brien in Northern Virginia Senate primary

Anita Kumar

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has left no one guessing whom he supports in the GOP primary to select a candidate to face Democratic Sen. George Barker of Fairfax County next year.

McDonnell's staff announced he would attend former senator Jay O'Brien's campaign kick-off Wednesday evening in Springfield.

O'Brien, whom Barker narrowly defeated in 2007, faces Scott Martin, an assistant dean at George Mason University, who ran unsuccessfully for a Fairfax County School Board in 2003. Martin announced his candidacy March 9.

McDonnell and O'Brien served together in the House of Delegates before O'Brien was elected to the Senate in 2002.

Martin said in an interview that McDonnell called him several months ago to tell him that he had already agreed to support his longtime friend, O'Brien, without realizing a primary would be taking place in the district. Martin said he isn't upset that the governor is supporting O'Brien. "I respect friendship. I respect loyalty,'' he said.

The 39th district includes parts of northern Prince William and southern Fairfax County, though the boundary lines could -- and probably will -- change with the redistricting process after the 2010 census. McDonnell won the district with 56 percent of the vote.

Phil Cox, a senior adviser to McDonnell, said the governor does not usually get involved in primaries but that O'Brien and McDonnell have a "close personal friendship'' and that O'Brien was a strong supporter of McDonnell in 2005 when he ran for attorney general.

O'Brien said he also received the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, among others (Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told him he would be staying out of the primary). "The endorsements are a recognition of the work I've done,'' he said.

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By Anita Kumar  |  May 10, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  | Tags: Bob McDonnell, Fairfax County Virginia, Jay O'Brien, Republican Party, Virginia, Virginia House of Delegates  
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