The Washington-DC area congressman whose ’08 political plans are increasingly the subject of speculation in the area press told me yesterday that he is “genuinely undecided” about whether to seek re-election or go into private business.
“I’m not going to make a decision this week,” Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Virg.) told me, responding to speculation that he might make an announcement this week as to whether or not he would seek an eighth term as congressman from the Northern-Virginia based 11th District. But Davis, a past chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, did hint he would make a decision by the end of January.
In October, Davis told a packed breakfast of reporters at the Christian Science Monitor he would not run for the seat of retiring Sen. John Warner (R-Virg.) in ’08. But he held back on whether he would run again for Congress, saying “we have to have something to talk about at a future breakfast.” After the November defeat of his state senator-wife Jeannemarie for re-election, speculation mounted that Davis himself would call it quits from politics and enter the private sector. Even political opponents agree that the congressman — a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee with an Library of Congress-like knowledge of national politics — could easily command a seven-figure job in lobbying or government relations. In ’05, Davis came close to quitting Congress outright to take a high-paying job with the National Federation of Independent Business.
“But the question for me is what I want to do at this stage of my life,” said Davis, who will turn 58 on January 5. The congressman’s personal goals aside, many of his fellow Northern Virginia GOPers worry that without him, his district will fall to a well-known liberal Democrat — either Gerry Connelly, who succeeded Davis as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, or Leslie Byrne, who held the 11th District from 1992 until being unseated by Davis two years later. Davis supporters privately voice confidence their man could defeat either and that Connelly and Byrne might take a pass on a race if the incumbent runs again.
Without Davis, the GOP picture appears to grow dim. More than likely, the GOP nominee will be someone in the Davis mold: conservative on fiscal issues, more moderate on social issues. The name of lawyer Michael Powell, son of Colin Powell and himself a past chairman of the Federal Communications Commission emerged as a possible candidate. But Powell opted against the race. Close Davis ally and former Prince William County Board Chairman Sean Connaughton is also mentioned for the seat but unlikely to run. At this point, the likeliest GOP candidate is businessman Keith Fimian, who shares most of Davis’ positions and has personal wealth to use on a campaign.
Should Davis say he isn’t running, he will be the 19th Republican House Member to be a “no go” for ’08.