This article was updated at 6 p.m. Feb. 12.
The retirements of two longtime congressmen have generated a lively start to this fall’s mid-term elections as candidates and parties prepare for two very different races.
In the 10th Congressional District, both the Republican and Democratic parties decided to bypass an open primary process, allowing them to select nominees well before the June 10 primary date.
The seat has been held by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R) for more than 30 years but is now projected to be a toss-up for either party.
“This election has national implications and is going to be high-profile and extremely expensive,” said Charlie Jackson, chairman of the 10th Congressional District Democratic Committee, in a statement announcing that the committee will hold a nominating convention. “Our decision today will ensure that our nominee is able to hit the ground running.”
In late January, 10th District Republicans opted to use a party canvass to select its nominee, citing similar concerns about the cost and time delay of a state-run primary. Unlike the convention, the party canvass will take place at multiple locations throughout the district, which runs from Frederick County to western Fairfax County.
Republicans also called Democrats hypocritical for using a nominating convention, something Democrats have criticized Republicans for in the past.
“Tenth District Republicans … will have 10 different locations throughout the District to directly vote for our nominee,” 10th District Republican Committee Chairman John Whitbeck said in a released statement. “In contrast, Democrats who want to participate in selecting their nominee will have to first be elected at local mass meetings as delegates.”
Both nomination events will take place April 26.
As evidenced by the Republicans’ convention for statewide candidates last year, the internal nominating processes tend to favor candidates who are very active within the party, said Frank Sahfroth, director of the George Mason University Center for State and Local Government Leadership.
“They do favor different types of candidates,” he said. “The conventions tend to be for people that are extremely active. The primary can bring out anybody.”
The nominating process in the 8th Congressional District takes on a different importance. The district is so solidly Democratic that whichever candidate wins the primary is highly likely to win the general election, Shafroth said.
Current U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D) won his last election with nearly 65 percent of the vote.
The 8th District Democratic Committee opted to hold a primary, which will include nine candidates, most of whom are sitting or former elected officials.
“They want to have a process where hopefully the candidate who can curry the widest support among all three jurisdictions wins,” Shafroth said.
The district includes Arlington, Alexandria and a portion of Fairfax County. Although the district is often viewed as Alexandria-centric, the largest percentage of voters in the district live in Fairfax County, Shafroth notes.
While it’s really too early to tell, Shafroth said this dynamic could favor former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who would have the most name recognition across the three jurisdictions. Beyer served two terms as lieutenant governor, from 1990 to 1998, before losing his bid for governor to Gov. Jim Gilmore (R).
“He has more access to campaign financing than any of the other candidates,” Shafroth said, who include state delegates and senators, the mayor of Alexandria, and three individuals from the private sector.
Eight District Republicans planned to hold a convention to select a nominee, although there is currently only one Republican, Micah Edmond, in the running. Edmond is a former congressional staffer and a Marine veteran who now works for the Aerospace Industries Association.
The original version of the informational box accompanying this article did not include information about Micah Edmond’s position on the Simpson-Bowles Commission.