Jeffrey A. Clark is a local tea party activist in Virginia’s 5th District, and he’s threatening to run for Congress in a swing district as an Independent candidate–but only on one condition. If a particular candidate wins the crowded GOP primary, he’ll run, and that candidate is state Senator Robert Hurt, whom many local tea party activists are suspicious of.
If state Sen. Robert Hurt wins the GOP primary on June 8, Clark told POLITICO, he’ll move ahead as an unaffiliated conservative candidate even at the risk of undermining Republican efforts to oust Perriello.
“I would rather see Tom Perriello for two more years than the wrong conservative there for 20 years,” Clark said.
Hurt has drawn support from establishment Republicans in Virginia and Washington, winning the endorsement of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But he’s been greeted with suspicion by some in the GOP’s activist base because of his moderate voting record, including his support for tax hikes during the administration of former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner.
Though Clark might be in a position to peel off some disaffected GOP activists, he acknowledged that he’d be at a serious financial disadvantage in the race: “I’m not under the illusion that we’re going to be able to compete with Tom Perriello’s $1.6 million or Robert Hurt’s money.”
Hurt consultant Chris LaCivita expressed skepticism about the seriousness of Clark’s threat, calling it a “discussion on hypotheticals.”
“The legitimacy of his candidacy is suspect,” LaCivita said, but added: “Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or independent, each candidacy will face the same level of scrutiny.”
Hurt’s running against a crowded field of other Republicans including Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd, retired Navy officer Michael McPadden and real estate developer Jim McKelvey.
The field includes a total of seven candidates–each of the others would presumably be acceptable to Jeffrey Clark and prevent him from running. There has similarly been speculation that former US Representative Virgil Goode might run for Congress as a member of the Constitution Party or as an Independent if Hurt wins.