In a mass meeting conducted on Monday night, attendees of the 19th House of Delegates committee’s mass meeting voted to nominate Tea Party activist Jerry Johnson (no relation) to run for the 19th District’s seat in the House of Delegates. Although Jerry Johnson was the only candidate for the Republican nomination, the 19th District committee called the mass meeting to determine whether the committee would challenge longtime incumbent Lacey Putney.
Lacey Putney has occupied this seat since 1962. Initially elected as a Democrat, Del. Putney left his party in 1968 and has caucused with House Republicans
since the late 1990s. Del. Putney, a reliable vote for fiscal and social conservative causes, has earned the trust of the House leadership, which selected him to serve as the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations committee. After the resignation of former speaker Vance Wilkins, Putney was selected to serve as Interim Speaker.
Del. Putney is not only an unofficial face of the GOP in Richmond, but he is also a recognized face among the party faithful in central and western Virginia. He frequently campaigns on behalf of Republican candidates throughout his district, most recently for Gov. McDonnell, Attorney General Cuccinelli and Rep. Robert Hurt (for whom he hosted a fundraiser at his home last fall). Putney also frequently meets with and addresses Republican units in his district. He is especially active with the unit committee in his lifelong home in Bedford.
What are 19th District Republicans to do? They have grown to trust Del. Putney over his many years of loyal service to the district’s voters, however doing so this year could cost them their good standing with their party. Jerry Johnson, himself, is an unlikely candidate: a semi-retired electrical contractor/real estate agent, he has raised only $1,500 for his campaign—$53 of which he still has in-hand. In fact, until the final vote was recorded, Johnson seriously doubted that he would even receive the nomination.
Both Johnson and Putney will be running against perennial candidate, Democrat Lewis Medlin, Jr., from Bedford County. Medlin has challenged Del. Putney every two years since 2007 and has lost handily every time. If Johnson and Putney and ultimately split the 19th District’s conservative votes, could this finally be Lewis Medlin’s year?