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Pentagon cuts spark war of words between Nye, Rigell in 2nd district race

Ben Pershing

Updated 3:40 p.m.
The Pentagon's decision to close the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk has quickly become the latest flashpoint in the area's hotly-contested House race, as freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D) and his Republican challenger trade barbs over the move.

The closure of the JFC would have big economic consequences for the 2nd congressional district, which includes most of the Hampton Roads region and has a huge military presence. Nye joined Virginia politicians from both parties Monday at a press conference in Norfolk to decry the move and pledge to fight it. But that wasn't good enough for auto dealer Scott Rigell (R), who is running to oust Nye from his seat by arguing that the freshman has been an ineffective protector of the region's interests in Congress.

Within hours of the news, Rigell's campaign issued a press release claiming the planned closure was "a direct reflection of Glenn Nye's lack of leadership."

"Once again, our region is on the verge of losing a major military asset, and our freshman incumbent has done little to stop such a move," Rigell said.

Rigell and his fellow Republicans had already sought to blame Nye for another Defense Department decision before Monday's announcement. The Pentagon announced in February as part of its Quadrennial Defense Review that it planned to move one of the five nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently based in Norfolk to Mayport, Fla. (Though the original idea for the move predates Nye's time in Congress.) As with the closure of JFC, the move of a carrier -- currently slated for 2019 -- would cost the region thousands of jobs.

In February, months before Rigell won the GOP primary, he accused Nye of being "completely ineffective and largely silent on the issue" of the carrier move.

But Nye has pushed back hard. He inserted a provision into the defense authorization bill for 2011 that would block funding for moving a carrier to Florida. (The bill has passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate.) Nye's campaign is touting a letter he received in June from Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) thanking Nye for his "leadership on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia" on the carrier issue.

And in an interview Tuesday, Nye said his opponent's response to the JFC announcement was "indicative of the difference between our leadership styles," as Rigell complained from the sidelines while Nye sought to work with Virginia Republicans to stop the change from happening.

"He's playing politics with the issue and declaring defeat before we've even had the fight," Nye said, adding: "The way you win on issues is to form bipartisan coalitions."

Word of the Pentagon's plans to close the JFC came directly from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, so it is unclear whether any freshman lawmaker from either party could have stopped it from happening. Virginia's statewide clout with the military has also diminished somewhat since Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R) retired.

Maren Leed, an expert on defense issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Gates was not known for having "close relationships with Congress" or letting lawmakers have a significant impact on his decisionmaking.

"It is unlikely that any one member would have had much of an impact on any of these decisions," Leed said.

By Ben Pershing  |  August 10, 2010; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Glenn Nye , Scott Rigell  
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If the Republican Governor and the two Democratic Senators could stop it I doubt that Nye could have. Rigell is playing politics but that's the nature of the beast. Those who want to will believe it.

Posted by: mcdonalsherry | August 10, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Great article Ben Pershing. Please acknowledge the race for congress in the second district of Virginia is a 3 way. Our independent candidate for US congress is the former chairman of the republican party of virginia beach Commodore Kenneth E. Golden USN Ret. Kenny was a J5 and a J8 at JFCOM and has considerable insight. In fact, he released a position statement on this 11 days prior to Gates decision being made public.

For accuracy, your article should state that Kenny Golden did the following:

1. Drafted a resolution passed unanimously by the VA House of Delegates urging the Governor and congressional delegation to do all they could to retain the carriers in Hampton Roads.
2. Issued a statement on USJFCOM 11 days PRIOR TO Gates' announcement regarding the demise of USJFCOM.

In spite of the fact that Kenny Golden has 31 years of active duty experience along with numerous commands, the DNC and GOP will not promote an independent any more than mainstream media will but this IS a 3 way race, Kenny Golden IS on the Ballot, and Kenny Golden is well known by retired and active duty military members who vote.

Posted by: turbocohen | August 10, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

The Independent Greens of Virginia held a press conference today in Richmond at the State Legislature building.

photos & video at

Independent Greens of Virginia

More Trains, Less Traffic!
August 10, 2010

Gail “for Rail” Parker 571-490-6063 (mobile)
Joe Oddo 703-338-0200 (mobile)
Carey Campbell 703-351-1235

For Immediate Release

Virginia’s “Original” Tea Party Débuts Congressional Candidates

Virginia’s Independent Green Party, calling itself the ‘Original’ Tea Party demonstrated its strength today in Richmond by putting forth a full slate of candidates for Virginia’s eleven Congressional Districts this November.

The candidates are by Congressional district:
Dist 1 Gail “for Rail” Parker, a grandmother and veteran campaigner of two state-wide elections;
Dist 2 Kenny Golden, a retired Navy Commodore and former chairman of a Virginia Beach political party;
Dist 3 John D. Kelly, a retired Air Force veteran and Vice-Chair of Indy Greens District 3 running to give voters a choice in November;
Dist 4 Janet Murphy, a real estate agent, mother, the only write-in candidate on the slate;
Dist 5 Jeff Clark, a businessman, and conservative activist running in a district with an urgent need for green rail jobs;
Dist 6 Jeff Vanke, a Harvard Phd, father, former college professor with prior elected public service;
Dist 7 Floyd Bayne, a businessman and conservative Tea Party activist;
Dist 8 Ron Fisher, a retired Navy Captain, a grandfather, a civic activist and former naval academy classmate of John McCain;
Dist 9 Jeremiah Heaton, business owner and former high-school teacher with prior elected public service;
Dist 10 Bill Redpath; Libertarian Independent Green endorsee who supports rail and smaller government;
Dist 11 David Gillis; a real estate agent, rail advocate, and at 29 years old the Indy Greens youngest candidate for congress.

This diverse green team of Independents are professionals and agree on the need for building rail, More Trains, Less Traffic, the need to recruit more candidates to join them with positive solutions to several weighty issues.

Gail “for Rail” Parker “laid claim” to the $100 Billion the Department of Defense is proposing to shuffle around saying that $100 Billion would build a Nationwide state-of-the-art high-speed rail system that would contribute more to promoting National Security, would create jobs, grow the economy and revenues too.

Other reasons provided for building rail are to have cleaner air and water, to cut dependency on oil and to save lives. By a wide margin candidates agreed on the need to create jobs by building new tracks and high-speed rail.

The Independent Greens, long time rail advocates, began placing candidates on the ballot with Ross Perot in 1992 and are largely responsible for orchestrating an increase in independent candidates on the ballot in Virginia.

Posted by: CareyCampbell | August 11, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

I noticed you mentioned Jeff Vanke running for the 6th Distrist. While those in Congress suffer dismal public approval ratings, there is hope sprouting next door in Virginia. Jeff Vanke, an Independent candidate dedicated to fiscal responsibility has thrown his hat into the ring for Virginia’s 6th District. Why should citizens of New Jersey (or any other state) care about a House race in Virginia?

Quite simply, the two-party, majority-minority dynamic has created a $14 Trillion National Debt. That is over $46,000 owed by every American man, woman and child, and this number increases every day. Each party, while in the majority, pushes through expenditures on behalf its partisan special interests. Pork-barrel spending on both sides of the aisle runs rampant.

The importance of breaking the major parties’ stranglehold on our government cannot be overstated. We are headed for a fiscal train wreck. The Democrats and Republicans created this problem and show no honest sign of correcting it. Only Independents such as Jeff Vanke provide any chance of avoiding a financial disaster far greater than we are currently facing.

To be sure, this is no easy feat. There has not been an Independent in the U.S. House of Representatives since the 1920s, thanks to the gerrymandering by the two major parties. The Democrats and Republicans have conspired to keep Independents out. Partisan pundits on the Right and Left, such as Rush Limbaugh and Rachael Maddow, are quick to attack moderates, because moderates pose a greater threat to them than their polar opposites.

Jeff Vanke has been endorsed by the Modern Whig party and the American Centrist Party. He’s a well balanced candidate, reasonable on a broad range of issues. Vanke’s campaign is focusing on results, not ideology. He has a good chance of winning as he’s polling well with only the incumbent is running. I would strongly encourage everyone to support Jeff Vanke. Our country needs an Independent voice in Congress.

Learn more at and

Posted by: njcentrist | August 15, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

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