Story by Chris Graham
The mood was triumphant, almost giddy.
Republicans in the 24th Senate District seem almost hopelessly divided – and local Democrats think they smell blood in the water.
“We have this unprecedented opportunity to get somebody in this seat who can make a difference in Richmond, who can help Gov. Kaine, who can help unite our people,” said David Cox, a Rockbridge County Democrat who was nominated to run for the 24th District seat in the Virginia Senate tonight at a Democratic Party mass meeting in Verona.
“With the Republican Party dividing in front of our very eyes, as it seems to be doing, we can’t miss this chance,” Cox said.
Cox beat back the challenge of Churchville Democrat Will Hrovat – winning 28 of the 37 votes cast at the mass meeting.
Cox was a surprise candidate – as of the final hours leading up to the May 24 prefiling deadline for tonight’s mass meeting, it had appeared that Hrovat would be the party nominee by acclimation.
But Cox, who ran unsuccessfully for the 24th House District seat that represents a chunk of the 24th Senate District against Republican Ben Cline in 2005, came out of the shadows as a candidate viewed by local Dems as the candidate who can knock off the person presumed to be the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in the June 12 Senate primary on the Republican side, Buena Vista businessman Scott Sayre.
“If things happen the way I think they will happen, we’ll have an open seat here in the 24th District,” said Frank Nolen, who represented the 24th in Richmond for more than two decades before being unseated by the current incumbent, Mount Solon Republican Emmett Hanger.
“If David gets to run for that open seat, I think he has the best shot at winning it,” Nolen said.
Cox used the occasion of his nomination to take the offensive in the upcoming fall campaign – and his aim was directly at Sayre, a fiscal conservative who has highlighted his signature on a no-new-taxes pledge in his party-primary campaign.
“Republicans have no ideas. It’s not enough to say, We’re not going to raise taxes,” Cox said.
Cox said he will work in Richmond to see to it that the state works toward “smarter solutions” to improving traffic flows on Interstate 81 – “and I think the rail solution is one of those smart solutions,” Cox said.
He will also work for job and economic growth under the smart-growth model – in addition to working for increased public support of public education and public mental-health services.
Nolen, who formally nominated Cox for the party nod from the floor, made sure to take a swing at Hanger for good measure.
“Listen to Sayre – the ads that he is running against his opponent are the same ones that his opponent ran against me 12 years ago,” Nolen said. “He’s calling him a tax-spending liberal. That’s what his opponent called me. And 12 years ago, I said that seniority was important – and that’s what his opponent is saying now. Well, 12 years ago, seniority wasn’t so important when it was my seniority that was the issue.”