Degner: ‘Best shot in years’ for Dems in 26th
Story by Chris Graham
Kai Degner may be hitting one of those windows of opportunity that the universe seems to offer up every few hundred million years or so.
“We think this is the best shot in years to win the seat,” said Degner, the Harrisonburg mayor and presumptive Democratic Party nominee in the 26th House District.
The race for the soon-to-be-open seat in the 26th is about to become a full-out sprint. Incumbent Del. Matt Lohr has not formally resigned the seat, but he will sometime between now and May 1, the date that he will take over as the new commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Upon the Lohr resignation, Gov. Bob McDonnell will be charged with the responsibility of calling a special election to fill the seat. It’s expected that the special election will be set for a date in June, though nobody knows for sure at this point.
Another thing that we don’t know for sure if the local Republican Party will have any kind of tent left for people to stand within. An April 20 firehouse primary is scheduled to decide on a nominee for the House of Delegates seat, but a controversy has erupted over the details of the primary that have the two frontrunners for the nomination, Broadway businessman Tony Wilt and Harrisonburg attorney John Elledge, at odds, and very publicly so.
“This House Seat is not the Big Boys’ seat. It is the people’s seat,” Elledge was quoted saying in a recent e-mail to supporters in which he called for 26th District GOP leaders to hit the reset button on the process for deciding on a nominee.
“The people deserve a fair opportunity to choose who they want to represent them in Richmond. They do not want a puppet of the Big Boys. They want a leader that will represent their interests not the interest of the Big Boys and party insiders. I will be that leader. I won’t be controlled by the Big Boys. I won’t be controlled by anyone … except my constituents,” Elledge said.
Back to Degner and local Democrats – yeah, this would seem to be an opening in a district that has a significant Democratic Party presence with the City of Harrisonburg breaking noticeably for Barack Obama in 2008.
As Degner points out, he even received more votes in Harrisonburg in ’08, in a crowded eight-candidate City Council race, than did John McCain.
“I think we have a tremendous opportunity with the name recognition and having been known to stand for things like sustainability and local business and health issues. Those are all things that we can talk about and that people know me for. I have over a year of being mayor under my belt, and I’ve seen firsthand how decisions in Richmond really tie the hands of local government in a lot of ways,” Degner said.