Ousted delegate May could seek state Senate seat

Posted: December 3, 2013

The Winchester Star

Joe May

WINCHESTER — Veteran delegate Joe May on Monday announced that he plans to seek the 33rd District Senate seat that will likely be vacated soon by Mark Herring.

Herring, D-Leesburg, has been declared the winner in the state attorney general’s race after defeating Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, by 165 votes in the Nov. 5 election, which also saw Democrat Terry McAuliffe win the governor’s seat and Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam elected lieutenant governor. Obenshain has called for a recount.

May, who has represented the 33rd District in the House of Delegates for 20 years, was defeated in the June 11 Republican primary by Hamilton resident and tea party favorite Dave LaRock, who went on to win the general election.

In an interview on Monday, May said he doesn’t think the recount will reverse the verdict.

“Based on quite a few years of precedent, the outcome that was present on Election Day is held up during the recount,” he said. “Probably the only exception to that was George Bush’s presidential [one]. I did talk to Sen. Obenshain on Saturday. He said that he’s definitely asking for a recount.”

A “firehouse” primary is yet to be set, but may be held Dec. 14, said May, who is principal engineer at his 300-person company. In such a primary, voting would be set up in three locations — oftentimes at a firehouse — rather than in every voting precinct, he said.

It would be “very expensive” to have every precinct polling place open, said May, who is an inventor and technologist.

“It’s open to everybody to turn out and vote,” he said. “They require that you sign a pledge that you will vote for whoever wins the nomination process. That’s not a legal-binding document.”

May said two other men have declared their intention to seek the Republican nomination to serve the remainder of Herring’s term, if it comes to that: John Whitbeck, a Leesburg attorney, 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chairman and adjunct law professor at George Mason University, according to his website, johnwhitbeck.com; and Ron Meyer, whose website, ronmeyer.com, describes him as a former spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation and a frequent conservative analyst on Fox News.

The Democratic Party nominee is Jennifer Wexton, a Leesburg attorney and former assistant commonwealth’s attorney and substitute judge in Loudoun County.

“Once Senator Herring resigns his seat, then whoever is governor at that time [McAuliffe takes office in January] will call for a special election, and there’s certain rules regarding how soon he can call it,” May said. “Best guess at this point would be the [special election] would likely occur at the end of February or early March.”

There are two years left in Herring’s term, he said.

While running for state Senate had likely “crossed his mind,” May had been “pretty comfortable” in the House of Delegates.

“And, as I’ve worked with the Senate over the years there, and I believe that [senators] would be very comfortable with having me as their member,” he said.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, May said many others have encouraged him to run.

“Both the Republican Primary and the Special Election will present a large contrast in style and philosophy; some candidates’ first objective is to serve partisan interests,” the statement reads. “Our nation has had enough of the partisan gridlock in Washington and certainly doesn’t need any in Richmond.

“I am the one conservative in the race who can work within his party as well as cut through the gridlock to deliver real results for the commonwealth.

“If elected I plan to continue emphasizing growing and maintaining Virginia’s robust economy. That economy is particularly dependent on adequate transportation and good education, especially technology education (STEM).”

May highlighted his work on the state’s Rural Rustic Roads program, which he said has saved hundreds of millions of dollars, and his work to bring commercial space launches to Wallop’s Island.

“If elected I plan to work towards reduced congestion and lower tolls through innovation on the Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway,” his statement says.

Currently, the senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but the uncertainty of the seats being vacated by Northam and potentially Herring could swing the balance of power.

About three-quarters of the 33rd District is in Loudoun County, while the remainder is in Fairfax County, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com