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Sun Gazette: Del. Hope Says Nope to Senate Bid, But Will Seek Re-Election Print

BY:  Scott McCaffrey, Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 10:34 AM


Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) on April 13 announced plans to seek re-election to a second term in the House of Delegates, rather than to enter the race to succeed Mary Margaret Whipple in the 31st state Senate district.

Hope had flirted with the idea of a Senate bid since Whipple in February announced plans to retire after four terms, but never fully warmed to the idea.

"My first obligation must be to my family," Hope said in a statement. "Spending the time it would take to be victorious in a competitive primary and general election is too high a price for me to have to pay."

"This was a very difficult decision for me to make, and I realize there will be many people disappointed by this announcement," Hope said. "Voters of the 31st District deserve a strong, progressive senator who knows how to effectively legislate and already has earned the respect of colleagues on both sides of the aisle."

Hope, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2009 in a district that includes most of central Arlington, is the latest Arlington official to eschew a state Senate run. Del. Bob Brink (D-48th) and County Board members Chris Zimmerman, Walter Tejada and Jay Fisette all at one time this year were considering jumping into races, depending on how the districts turned out and who else ran. All opted against running.

Hope's decision leaves County Board member Barbara Favola as the only announced candidate in the 31st, which under redistricting plans approved by the General Assembly will morph from a relatively compact district that includes much of Arlington and the city of Falls Church to a sprawling district that hugs the Potomac River as it moves from North Arlington through McLean and Great Falls in Fairfax County, and then into Loudoun County.

But Favola could have company in the Democratic field soon enough. Ben Tribbett, a political consultant who runs the "Not Larry Sabato" Web site, said he could get into the race, challenging Favola from the left.

"Now that Patrick Hope has decided not to seek this Senate nomination, a large number of his supporters and other Virginia Democrats have urged me to run," Tribbett said.

"The voters in this Senate district deserve a strong progressive voice in the Virginia Senate, and they also deserve someone who will address local community concerns in all three counties within this district," he said. "If I decide to run, I am confident I will provide them with that voice."

Tribbett, who lives in Rosslyn, in 2005 considered but ultimately backed away from a House of Delegates race in Fairfax County. He had long been considered a potential contender for the 31st district, if Hope opted not to run.

"I was very much looking forward to being one of Patrick's strongest supporters if he had decided to seek the Democratic nomination," Tribbett said.

(That support represents one of those unexpected turnabouts in political relationships, as Tribbett in 2009 was among Hope's most vocal critics during the Democratic primary for the 47th House district.)

Candidates have until June to file paperwork to run in legislative races. If more than one Democrat seeks the party's nomination in the 31st Senate district, a primary will be held in late August.

What had once been an Arlington-dominated Senate district now has less than 60 percent of its population coming from the county, based on the redrawn boundary lines that passed the General Assembly. Gov. McDonnell could still offer amendments to the package, or, less likely, reject it outright.

Waiting for the eventual Democratic nominee is likely to be Republican Caren Merrick. Merrick had planned to take on state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd), but the legislature's redistricting plan plopped her McLean home into the reconfigured 31st District.

In recent months, Hope was seen by some in Richmond and within the county government as laying the groundwork for a bid for statewide office, perhaps for lieutenant governor or attorney general in 2013. He has said he won't be making those runs, but on April 13 said he "will not rule out a run for higher office at a future date."

As yet, no other candidates - Democratic or otherwise - besides Hope have announced plans to seek the 47th District House seat. Two years ago, Hope won handily in a field that included Republican Eric Brescia and Green Party candidate Josh Ruebner, after coming out on top in a five-way Democratic primary.

He succeeded Albert Eisenberg, a Democrat and former County Board member who had represented the district for three terms.