Virginia Republicans selected a state delegate Tuesday to replace U.S. representative Edward L. Schrock on the November ballot, a day after he dropped out of his race for reelection amid claims that he has solicited men for sex. The second congressional district Republican committee voted by secret ballot to nominate Del. Thelma Drake, a real estate agent, to take on Democrat David B. Ashe. "I am sad, because Ed Schrock is my friend, and certainly what led to me getting this nomination is a very sad event," Drake told reporters after the meeting. "The other side of this is, we need to move on, we need to win this in November."
Schrock, 63, a married retired Navy captain who was popular among conservatives, cited unspecified "allegations" for his surprise decision Monday to retire from Congress. A Web log recently published allegations that he used a gay telephone dating service to solicit men for sex. Schrock, an outspoken foe of gays in the military and a supporter of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, did not address the allegation in a five-paragraph statement announcing his retirement. He said he would not comment further.
The GOP controls eight of Virginia's 11 U.S. House seats, and Schrock's decision to withdraw two months before the election threatens to narrow that margin. Drake, 55, is a reliable member of the state house's conservative GOP majority, serving on the powerful house finance committee. Asked whether she thought Schrock made the right decision by stepping down, Drake said, "Ed made his decision for this district and for this seat." Because of the allegations, she said, the media would have turned the campaign into a "food fight" rather than allowing the candidates to talk about the issues.
Ashe, 36, an attorney and Marine reservist who served last year in Iraq, had said before Drake's selection that he was confident the GOP would nominate a formidable opponent for him. "I'm glad that they will, because the voters need the choice," Ashe said in a telephone interview. "But we've got so much momentum that I felt good about it anyway."
Schrock was elected to his seat in a 2000 Republican sweep of Virginia. But the state GOP has had a succession of misfortunes since 2001, the year it lost the governor's office to Democrat Mark R. Warner. In the spring of 2002 the party's executive director, Edmund A. Matricardi III, resigned amid reports that he had illegally monitored confidential conference calls by Democratic lawmakers. He and the party's former chairman, Gary R. Thomson, ultimately pleaded guilty to federal charges. That same spring, the first Republican speaker of the Virginia house of delegates, S. Vance Wilkins Jr., resigned after The Washington Post reported that he had paid a 26-year-old woman $100,000 to silence her charge that he had groped her. Wilkins admitted making the payment but denied molesting the woman.