Region needs voice in Richmond

Published 11:39 am Saturday, April 27, 2013

Harry Blevins’ departure from the Virginia Senate gives Western Tidewater the opportunity to fill an influence void in Richmond.

Blevins, a Chesapeake Republican, announced recently that he will retire from elected service on Aug. 5. Gov. Bob McDonnell promptly set a special election for Aug. 6 to determine who will fill Blevins’ unexpired term.

Here’s hoping a qualified candidate from Franklin, Southampton, Isle of Wight or Suffolk will throw his or her hat in the ring.

Western Tidewater has not had resident representation in the Senate since Fred Quayle, who had served the region with distinction in Richmond for many years, was nudged out of the General Assembly by a misguided redistricting process following the 2010 Census.

Quayle, ever the gentleman and statesman, deferred to his good friend and colleague Blevins rather than run against him in a GOP primary or caucus. It was an uncommon gesture in politics, one befitting Quayle’s character, but Western Tidewater has been the poorer in Richmond without Quayle’s influence in the Senate.

The Hampton Roads metropolitan area has plenty of representation in Richmond. No knock on Del. John Cosgrove, the Chesapeake Republican who has already announced his intention to run for the Senate District 14 opening, but the western, rural communities of Hampton Roads need their own voice in the Senate. No matter how hard they may try, urban and suburban lawmakers can’t fully understand the needs and priorities of Western Tidewater.

Our region has taken a huge step backward in legislative influence since the late Paul Councill and Richard Holland left public service.

District 14 Republicans have scheduled a “canvas” for Thursday, May 9, to choose their nominee for the special election. The Hampton Roads GOP establishment, not surprisingly, has thrown its weight behind Cosgrove, including an unusually early endorsement from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

J. Christopher Stearns, a young Portsmouth conservative aligned with the Tea Party wing of the GOP, looks to be the potential fly in the ointment, having declared his candidacy this week.

Republican candidates must formally declare their intention to run by 5 p.m. Thursday. No word yet from the Democrats about their plans for the District 14 race.

There are several fine Western Tidewater citizens — some currently in elected service, some not — who would make terrific candidates and lawmakers. Area voters need at least the chance to elect one of their own to the Senate.

STEVE STEWART is the publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at