In his first term in office, state senator Mark Herring’s performance has been lackluster, and he’s not particularly charismatic as Not Larry Sabato will attest. Add to that, some significant headwinds for any Democratic candidate in the 2012 election cycle, and you have a Democratic state senator readily beatable by the right Republican opponent.
Unfortunately, the Republicans just don’t have the right opponent. The leading challenger, Dick Black, simply has too much baggage and appears too extreme for an increasingly moderate county. The other Republican candidate, Patricia Phillips, also painted as an extremist in her 2007 spanking by Herring, entered this race again early on but her campaign has every appearance of being on life support. Black has the endorsements, and apparently the nomination, locked up.
If a distasteful nominee weren’t bad enough, redistricting by a Democrat-controlled senate means a very short general election season and no doubt in a more heavily Democratic district than 2007. So what’s a good Republican to do?
Enter the conservative, independent candidate. To hit into the Loudoun voters’ sweet spot, he would have to be a fiscal conservative (preferably, even from the LCRC), but not as completely out there on social issues as is Black. To win, he would have to ignore the Republican nomination process, focus on Herring and the general election now, and get a few key endorsements from both sides of the aisle. In addition to grabbing the first-in face time by doing so, he gets a leg up on the Republican nominee by getting earlier fundraising.
Chance of victory? Very real. While the campaigns of most independents are stillborn, the right circumstances can make a big difference. Those circumstances are present here, especially if an independent were to get in early enough, get some buzz and get some early money.