Hurt So Good

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, November 4, 2010

FARMVILLE – Hurt feels no election pain.

State Senator Robert Hurt will be going to Washington to represent the Fifth Congressional District following Tuesday's election victory.

“I was really gratified by the result. It was a hard-fought victory and I think it's a victory for the people of the Fifth District,” the victorious Hurt said during a Wednesday afternoon interview with The Herald.

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“I'm grateful to the people and privileged for the opportunity to serve,” he said, adding that he believes the election result is a message sent to Washington, D.C. to “get its act together or else. And I'm proud to be one of the guys carrying that message.”

The Republican defeated Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello by 8,680 votes, or 50.75 percent to 47.05 percent, across the district. Independent candidate Jeffrey A. Clark collected 4,973 votes or 2.11 percent.

Rep. Perriello won the majority of votes in The Herald's coverage area, winning both Prince Edward and Buckingham, Hurt taking Cumberland, though with less than 50 percent of that county's vote. The three-county total saw Perriello come out ahead by 50.71 percent to Hurt's 47.06 percent, the Democrat virtually mirroring the Republican's district-winning margin.

Perriello's Congratulations

In a statement issued election night, Rep. Perriello conceded the race, saying, “I congratulate Senator Hurt and, along with my team, will do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition.”

Rep. Perriello won Prince Edward by 53.18 percent to 45.05 percent, with Clark getting 1.67 percent of the vote, and the Democrat won 51.45 percent of the vote in Buckingham, to Hurt's 46.15 percent, Clark taking 2.24 percent.

Sen. Hurt won in Cumberland, with 49.98 percent, Rep. Perriello receiving 47.05 percent and Clark 2.92 percent, respectively.

The Election's Message

When asked about his view that the election sends a specific message to D.C. from district voters, even though the district's vote was split virtually 50-50, Sen. Hurt explained he was thinking nationally.

“I look at it in the context of the elections all across the country…if you look at the more than 60 seats that were picked up (by Republicans),” Sen. Hurt said.

But Sen. Hurt immediately added that he doesn't view the election result as directed only at Democrats but, instead, “directed at Democrats and Republicans alike” in Washington, D.C. “who too long refused to listen” to the people.

There is, he acknowledged, “a diversity of opinion…But that's the message (act-together-or-else) sent to Washington.”

Ground Support

The triumphant Republican noted the importance of his supporters, among them those who began building his grassroots effort prior to the June primary which saw him win coming out of a crowded GOP field and a tough intramural contest.

“When you win by 9,000 votes,” Hurt said of the district-wide vote difference on Tuesday, “there's no way you do it without people on the ground. And this was a ground game battle, and we anticipated that.”

Primary Experience Helped

The often bitter June GOP primary fight proved beneficial, not only in the obvious victory which put Sen. Hurt on the November ballot but also because his political ground troops were active and in place sooner than Rep. Perriello's, or any incumbent's would be.

Considering the impact, Hurt said, “having that organization in place…was critical to our victory.”

At first calling the primary race a “dry run” for the November campaign, Hurt said it gave he and his supporters valuable experience in an election of far more size and consequence than they had ever before experienced.

The ability to “fold in” the organizations of his GOP primary opponents into his own campaign was also crucial, Hurt noted.

And what, then, does he have to say to those who voted in this election for someone else?

“When I take the oath of office it will be to uphold the Constitution and serve the people of the Fifth District and I take that oath very seriously,” the congressman-elect said, adding his pledge to “represent the people fairly, regardless of their political persuasion, and seek to be their servant.”

Repealing Health Care Reform

Balancing the budget will be Sen. Hurt's top legislative priority after getting to Washington in January and he looks forward to voting to repeal the health care reform act.

“I will,” he said of a vote to repeal, as promised during the campaign. “I will. And I look forward to that vote. It's a bill we need to send to the Senate and expect them to approve and I think we need to put that thing on the president's desk.”

As for maintaining a district office in Farmville, as have his predecessors for the past four decades, Sen. Hurt said “I have not made any of those decisions yet” regarding district office locations, and will make a final decision after “consulting with folks” who have experience with such matters in the Fifth District. A press conference on constituent services was scheduled for Friday.

Perriello Proud Of 'Problem-Solving'

The most recent of those experienced in Fifth District constituent services, Tom Perriello, said in a statement issued by his campaign that “it has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of the Fifth District and I am so proud of the work we've done. Real change is not something that is measured in a year or two: I believe that our actions will ripple out for years to come. The best kind of politics is one that puts a sense of problem-solving ahead of political points, and I'm proud to have tackled the tough problems of our community and nation.

“We faced the brink of a depression and turned that around into nine straight months of private-sector job growth,” Rep. Perriello said. “I'll continue to find ways to serve my community and my country with anyone from any party or organization who is serious about rebuilding the middle-class and the next great American decade.”

As for serious voters, 51.70 percent of active voters in Buckingham cast ballots on Tuesday, with 50.64 of those doing so in Cumberland, and 46.71 percent in Prince Edward.