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Why did Fairfax congressional district Republicans cancel their convention?

The Virginia 11th District Republican Committee canceled the convention it was scheduled to hold this past Saturday, two weeks before GOP voters in Fairfax and Prince William counties are set to go to the polls to choose a candidate to talk on Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) in November.

The district convention, which was to have been held at West Springfield High School, was meant to allow local activists to hear from the two congressional contenders -- Oakton businessman Keith Fimian and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity. So why was the event scrapped?

"With the primary looming, there were just so many other competing events," said Becky Stoeckel, the district's Republican chairwoman, explaining that both Fimian and Herrity had schedule conflicts. "It just made a lot more sense to cancel the convention and free up one of the final Saturdays before the primary."

Aides to both Fimian's and Herrity's campaigns confirmed that they were busy attending other events Saturday. But local Democrats still jumped on the cancellation, suggesting that perhaps there were other reasons behind it.

In a press release, the 11th District Democratic Committee said Republicans junked the event "to shield the public from the extreme views, bare-knuckles brawling, and increasingly nasty attacks that have marked the race to the right between" Fimian and Herrity.

The contest between the two Republican hopefuls has been rough, and Stoeckel acknowledged "that has been a little disappointing. I'm not a big fan of negative campaigning." But she emphasized that had nothing to do with the convention being canceled.

Rex Simmons, the Fairfax County Democratic chairman, said that "in most primaries, candidates would salivate at the chance to speak to a couple of thousand party activists and throw them some red meat to win votes just two weeks before a low turnout primary."

Stoeckel responded that most people who would have attended the convention have likely already chosen one of the two candidates already (Stoeckel herself is backing Herrity), and that the predicted attendance would likely have been much lower than "a couple of thousand" people.

Tim Edson, Fimian's campaign manager, agreed that internal party dissent had nothing to do with the cancellation, since everyone in the party is working toward the same ultimate goal in November. "Gerry Connolly is the biggest uniter of Republicans in this district," Edson said.

By Ben Pershing  |  May 24, 2010; 11:17 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Gerald E. Connolly , Keith Fimian , Pat Herrity  
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