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After 2010's House battles, little buzz for 2012

Saturday - 6/2/2012, 12:16pm  ET

AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - The 2012 congressional races can't match the energy and change two consecutive upheaval elections wrought the past four years. And they're being drowned out by pivotal presidential and U.S. Senate races in Virginia.

Primaries scheduled for June 12 bring a handful of first-time or little-known candidates, some battling each other, others challenging incumbents.

Republican congressmen Randy Forbes in the 4th District and Bob Goodlatte in the 6th expect little trouble from primary challengers. Nor does House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

One incumbent Democrat, Rep. Jim Moran, faces a challenger.

Democrats hold primaries without incumbents in the 4th, 5th and 7th Districts. Two Republicans meet in the 11th District.

Democrats Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott and Republicans Rob Wittman, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell, Morgan Griffith and Frank Wolf have no primary opposition.

Cantor, the second most powerful member of the House's ruling Republican leadership, faces an encore challenge from Floyd C. Bayne, who in 2010 ran as the Independent Green candidate in Cantor's 7th District and finished with less than 7 percent of the vote.

Through May 23, Cantor had raised more than $5.7 million from both individuals and political action committees, according to Federal Election Commission filings. As of April 1, Bayne had raised slightly more than $5,000.

Barring a historic upset, Cantor will defend the seat he has held for six terms from Democrat E. Wayne Powell, a Richmond lawyer and retired Army colonel, in the fall election. Powell clenched the Democratic nomination after other early contenders dropped out.

It's a difficult proposition at best for Powell. The highly conservative 7th District became even more right-leaning after redistricting was completed this year by Virginia's Republican-ruled General Assembly.

Forbes' primary challenger is political newcomer Roberta "Bonnie" Girard, a Petersburg businesswoman with experience negotiating contracts for American trade in China. She contends Forbes, a 60-year-old, six-term former state GOP chairman, is naive in his outlook toward China, the lone remaining Communist superpower and a major U.S. creditor.

Girard has raised about $27,000 and began the final three-week primary stretch with $5,444 on hand, while Forbes reported about $427,000 of the $625,000 he has raised since January 2011 still in the bank.

In a Democratic primary for the same district, Chesapeake City Councilwoman and former state school board member Ella P. Ward faces Joe T. Elliott, a minister and small business owner from Colonial Heights making his first venture into elective politics. Ward reported campaign receipts topping $23,000 to the FEC, while Elliott reports no money raised.

In another solidly Republican district, 10-term Congressman Bob Goodlatte has a primary challenge in Karen U. Kwiatkowski of Harrisonburg, a retired Air Force colonel who blends a libertarian view with socially conservative politics. She supports a leaner military less eager to intervene overseas, but also would back federal legislation that would effectively extend legal rights of personhood to human embryos from the moment of conception, rendering all abortions illegal.

The Republican nominee in the 6th faces Democrat Andy Schmookler, an author, consultant and college professor in his first political foray. As of late May, his campaign had raised nearly $60,000. By the end of March, Goodlatte had received more than $835,000 to about $75,000 for Kwiatkowski.

Democrat Jim Moran is no stranger to primary challenges, some of them well-financed efforts brought by Democrats with respectable portfolios. He's brushed them all aside in a district that encompasses his home of Alexandria and Arlington, next-door neighbors to Washington, D.C., and two of Virginia's most reliably Democratic localities.

Shuttleworth, a former Navy pilot, is attacking Moran on ethics issues, raising questions of persistent conflicts of interest for the 67-year-old congressman seeking his 12th House term. Ten years ago, Moran came under media scrutiny for refinancing his home with an exceptionably interest rate from a major lender at the same time he championed reforms to the nation's bankruptcy laws supported by credit card companies.

Shuttleworth barely made the 8th District primary ballot. Initially, Democratic Party officials told him he had too few valid registered voter signatures on his qualifying petitions. Shuttleworth sued and party officials relented. Moran's brother, Brian, is chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Moran had raised nearly $721,000 for this year's re-election bid as of May 23, with nearly $449,000 of it on hand, while Shuttleworth by the end of March had raised nearly $77,000, according to FEC filings.

If Moran prevails again, he faces a rematch with Republican Patrick Murray, whom he defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio in 2010. Murray is unopposed for the GOP nomination.

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