Race is on to replace Garrett in state senate
State Sen. Tom Garrett has set a tentative resignation date of Jan. 3 to vacate his state senate seat ahead of the 2017 General Assembly, so he can move on to Congress.
Garrett’s win in the 5th Congressional District officially kicked off the race to replace him, although two Republican candidates have been campaigning hard for months in the expectation of the Republican from Buckingham’s victory over former Albemarle County Supervisor Jane Dittmar, a Democrat.
Once Garrett officially announces his resignation, Gov. Terry McAuliffe can call a special election, a contest likely to be held the same date as one to replace state Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, in Senate District 9. McEachin won the newly redrawn 4th Congressional District.
With the 2017 General Assembly convening Jan. 11, the race will be particularly tight if a Democrat steps into the race. No Democrats have announced their candidacy publically for the district that leans strongly in GOP favor.
Two GOP candidates, Lynchburg-area attorney Mark Peake and Goochland County Supervisor Ken Peterson, met the Wednesday evening filingdeadline to be candidates for the Republican ticket.
David Ball, who had announced his candidacy in August, did not meet the registration deadline with the district committee and will not be eligible, Bradshaw said.
“We’ve got two great candidates. I think either one of them would make an excellent senator to replace Tom Garrett,” said Daniel Bradshaw, chairman of the Republican Committee for the 22nd Senatorial District. “I’m wishing both of them the best of luck in their fight to secure the nomination.”
Bradshaw expects about 400 Republican activists to attend the convention and possibly more. If no other candidate runs, that small group would determine who represents the district, which includes Amherst and Appomattox counties and half of Lynchburg.
Peake and Peterson have been working in the periphery of the presidential and congressional campaigns to round up delegates for the convention scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 3. The location was not officially set as of Thursday.
To participate in the party nomination contest, people must apply as a delegate with their local committee. The delegates represent their local units at the district convention to pick the nominee. The final number of delegates should be determined Wednesday, Bradshaw said.
The race is Peake’s second run at the district. Garrett defeated him and three others for the Republican nomination in 2011 before taking down Democrat Bert Dodson 58 percent to 42 percent in the right-leaning district.
“I’ve been assuming Tom would win since January, and I’ve been running since January like Tom would win,” Peake said. “As soon as we issued the call declaring that we would have a convention to pick the nomination to replace Tom, I’ve been running as hard as I could to prepare for the convention.”
To win a nominating convention, candidates must generally convince people to register as a delegate with their local unit. Then, they turn to getting their delegates to the one-day electoral event.
“I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in each of the jurisdictions, getting to know the district, seeing what’s on their minds,” Peterson said. “It’s been a real positive experience.”
Garrett said he would not be endorsing a candidate.
“I want to be very clear on the record that every candidate in that field I think would do a good job,” Garrett said. “… I have no desire to get involved.”
Both candidates have spent the past several months visiting unit committee meetings making the case they should be Garrett’s successor.
“We need an outspoken, conservative leader who’s willing to stand up” for conservative principles, Peake said. “I think that’s what Tom Garrett did, and I think the people of the 22nd are looking for someone who will fight for those principles like he did, and I’m committed to doing it like he did.”
Peterson touts his experience in corporate finance and record as Goochland County supervisor. He was re-elected to his second term in 2015.
“It’s a strong solid conservative voting record,” Peterson said. “I think the delegates in general would prefer to see a voting record as to listen to campaign promises.”