Governor Bob McDonnell today set March 8 as the date for the special election to fill the 91st district House of Delegates seat suddenly vacated last week when Delegate Tom Gear (R-Hampton) resigned for health reasons. Delegate Gear's multiple sclerosis is worsening and his wife and sister both have cancer (see Rosalind Helderman at the Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog). That date ensures that 91st district voters will not be represented in the House of Delegates this 46-day session. The earliest the election could have been set, by law, was 45 days after Delegate Gear's resignation. We will miss Delegate Gear. Quick witted and always genial, his great sense of humor frequently was on display, especially in the small chat world of General Assembly Building elevators and waiting areas, and often timely to relieve certain stress over upcoming committee votes those elevators were taking us to. An unwavering conservative, he is a public servant committed to principle. We wish him and his loved ones well and the restoration of their health.
Of course, just because he resigned doesn't mean he's gone inactive. There are three Republicans running to succeed him in a largely GOP district (no word on whether the Democrats will field a candidate) and he's already thrown his endorsement to Teresa Vanasse Schmidt, a day-care assistant director from Hampton, calling her "a rock-solid conservative. She's pro-life. She's big on the Second Amendment. And she doesn't believe in raising taxes" (see the Post).
Also running are Hampton City Councilman Chris Stuart, who owns a security company, and attorney Chad Green, the second vice-chairman of the York County Republican Committee. Stuart today released a statement announcing that he is the first of the three to sign the Americans for Tax Reform "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" which states that a candidate will never vote for a tax increase.