Connolly faces moderate Republican in N.Va.

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Photo - Gerry Connolly will face the challenge of retired Green Beret Chris Perkins.
Gerry Connolly will face the challenge of retired Green Beret Chris Perkins.
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

After staving off back-to-back challenges from the same conservative opponent, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly is in a more liberal Northern Virginia district, but also facing a more moderate -- and therefore more threatening -- Republican challenger.

Connolly's challenger this fall, retired Green Beret Chris Perkins, supports abortion rights as long as taxpayer dollars aren't involved and repeatedly refused to sign a pledge to never raise taxes. He is, in short, starkly different from Keith Fimian, the pro-life, pledge-signing conservative businessman whom Connolly beat in 2008 but only barely outdistanced in 2010.

"You can compromise without compromising your values," said Perkins, contrasting himself with the more purist Tea Party wing of the GOP. "If we can't break partisan gridlock, we're going to have a revolution."

Connolly held on to his seat in 2010 by fewer than 1,000 votes, surviving a conservative overthrow of the House that knocked dozens of Democratic colleagues out of office in a low-turnout election.

To help Connolly survive, Virginia Democrats have since redrawn his district to include Democratic strongholds in Reston and Herndon. The bigger presidential-year turnout in November is expected to add to Connolly's advantage.

"When you double turnout, it's a whole different race and a whole different electorate," Connolly said.

Still, Republicans outnumber Democrats 8-to-3 in Virginia's congressional delegation, and Perkins, who spent nearly $200,000 to win this month's Republican primary, is now set on raising $1.4 million to use against Connolly.

Connolly has more than $1 million and will be raising funds throughout the summer.

In an indication of how different Connolly's district has become, Perkins easily defeated Ken Vaughn in the Republican primary, even though Vaughn more closely resembled the kind of conservatives Republicans were electing nationwide and was more like Fimian, who did so well in past races. While Vaughn pushed to erase federal budget deficits quickly through massive spending cuts, Perkins scoffed that the approach was unreasonable.

Still, Perkins considers himself fiscally conservative, backing parts of a budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that curtails entitlements, cuts taxes on the wealthy and remakes Medicaid.

"If you do not address the need for entitlement reform, all of this is really for naught," Perkins said. "[Connolly] would pretend we have no problem."

Connolly retorted that Perkins is an unknown with no record of voting as a moderate.

"I've got an 18-year record in public life where I've been publicly identified as a moderate, centrist, pro-business Democrat," Connolly said. "I actually have a record."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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