Could the mountainous land of coalfields and farms of the great Southwest become the land of Israel? Native son Israel O'Quinn, that is.

The former Republican Party of Virginia political director and campaign operative for U.S. Senator John Warner, President George W. Bush and for Jerry Kilgore's attorney general and gubernatorial bids, is considering a run for the Virginia Senate in the 40th district should a special election be necessary.

There may be need for one if incumbent Republican Senator William Wampler is elected — or appointed — to succeed State Corporation Commission Judge Theodore V. Morrison, Jr. Morrison, one of three SCC judges, is retiring when his term ends December 31 and, while the General Assembly normally elects SCC judges, the governor appoints them when the legislature is adjourned. They then are confirmed by the G.A.

Would Governor Tim Kaine commit to such a gambit? Only if he and fellow Democrats are cocksure they can win the normally Republican district. If he does, it could pay big rewards — or he could get stuck with a Republican judge and senator. Decisions, decisions . . . and the whichever way he goes may indicate exactly how confident His Excellency has become. He's already felt bold enough to cut abstinence education funds and push for his pre-K initiative in the face of a budget shortfall.

As for the youthful O'Quinn, in a December 5 e-mail to friends, he wrote:

". . . . I am seriously considering running should the seat become vacant. . . . 

". . . . As I continue to think about a potential run for Senate, we ask for your thoughts and your prayers. Political races are never easy, and this one will not be any different. . . . 

". . . . This region means the world to me. I want to be able to give back to an area that has given so much to me."

Another potential candidate, according to a General Assembly GOP source, may be former NASCAR executive Kevin Triplett, who currently is vice president for public affairs at Bristol Motor Speedway. In 2004, he was the Republican nominee for the 9th district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.