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VA-02: Thelma Drake vs. Phil Kellam


If the Democratic left doesn’t stop Thelma Drake this year, the freshman Republican will probably hold onto the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District for as long as she wants.

That’s what the race between Drake and Democrat Phil Kellam, Virginia Beach commissioner of revenue since 1997, boils down to. Two years ago, when scandal forced the incumbent Republican congressman to step down, then-state legislator Drake became the late-starting, stop-gap nominee for Congress. In a district that George W. Bush carried with 58% of the vote, Drake held onto the 2nd District seat with 55%.

This time, the House Armed Services Committee member and stalwart conservative is under intense fire from the well-funded left-wing “527” group Moveon.org. Another “527” group that is partially bankrolled by left-wing moneybags George Soros, Majority Action, has launched anti-Drake media salvos that slam the incumbent for her opposition to federal dollars for stem-cell research. The Moveon.org people, almost all of whom are from outside the 2nd District, are expected to man phone banks for Kellam.

To no one’s surprise, Kellam has major funding from the AFL-CIO, the American Trial Lawyers Association, and similar groups. As the son and nephew of prominent federal judges, the Democratic nominee has a name in Virginia akin in recognition to, say, Bush in Texas.

“And with all that, you don’t know where he stands on any issue,” says Drake campaign manager Tim Murtagh, a veteran of former State Atty. Gen. Jerry Kilgore’s race for governor last year, “He’s all over the map—on immigration, on our mission in Iraq, on energy. He denounces the fact that 62% of our oil comes from the Middle East or Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. But he’s also against oil drilling in Alaska and even against exploring for oil off the coast of Virginia.”

For her part, Thelma Drake stands foursquare for oil drilling and exploration in every possible place to make America independent when it comes to energy. As it was in the state legislature, the style of the lady from Virginia Beach is to say what she means and mean what she says: strongly pro-life, for making the Bush tax cuts permanent, in favor of the Old Dominion’s statewide marriage amendment, and strongly for the U.S. mission in a free Iraq.

But sometimes standing for things is not enough for a freshman member of Congress—especially against an opponent with great name recognition and the massive forces of leftism behind him. Should conservatives fail to realize this when it comes to Thelma Drake and stand by the embattled incumbent, she won’t be in Congress to stand firm for their causes.