Rep. Robert Hurt predicted Wednesday that he will win re-election and questioned the “character” of Democratic challenger John Douglass due to his efforts to inject the uranium-mining debate into the congressional race for the 5th District.
“The things that he is saying are untrue. I think that the things that he is saying about me and my interest in this reflect his character,” Hurt, R-Chatham, said in an interview when asked about Douglass’s attempts to tie him to a uranium project in Southside Virginia. “And I don’t think that the people of the 5th District deserve to have a person of that sort of character representing them. And I predict that they won’t.”
Hurt made the prediction in an interview outside Monticello High School, where he had participated in an awards ceremony for JROTC students who had completed a summer leadership program.
When asked for a response to Hurt’s comments, the Douglass campaign reiterated familiar criticisms.
“In the words of the late President [Ronald] Reagan, who believed in General Douglass’s character, ‘there he goes again’ instead of agreeing to five debates,” Douglass campaign spokesman Chase Winder said in an emailed statement. “General Douglass is more concerned about the future of Virginia families than the future of his own election because Corporate Congressman Hurt stands to gain from uranium investors by opposing a federal ban on mining that puts our air and water at risk.”
Douglass, a retired Air Force brigadier general from Fauquier County, has touted his high-level military experience under both the Reagan and Clinton administrations.
This year, political analysts don’t rank the 5th District among the most competitive races, but that hasn’t stopped it from getting heated. Each campaign has accused the other of stooping to “gutter politics.”
Douglass has raised questions about Hurt’s connection to a controversial proposal to mine a massive uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County. Many oppose the mine plan due to public-safety and environmental concerns.
Hurt’s father, Henry C. Hurt Jr., has invested in Virginia Uranium Inc., the company formed in 2007 to develop the uranium deposit near Hurt’s hometown of Chatham.
State legislators are still considering the possibility of lifting a 30-yar ban on uranium mining in Virginia.
Douglass has said that Hurt and his family stand to make “millions and millions” if the mine is allowed to open, a claim Hurt denounced as false.
The Douglass campaign has continued to make uranium a key factor in its electoral strategy. A recent fundraising email said Hurt was “running scared” because he’s afraid of Douglass “exposing his dangerous ties to uranium mining in the district.”
Hurt’s campaign has also gone on the offensive against Douglass.
In its first TV ad, the Hurt campaign called Douglass a “Washington lobbyist,” an apparent reference to Douglass’s time as president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, a position he held from 1998 to 2007.
In response to that ad, the Douglass campaign said Hurt has “spent his career in politics” and has “apparently nothing to show for it.”
“Instead, he’s reintroducing himself to voters by taking pathetic, cheap shots at General Douglass’s advocacy for American aerospace policies that create jobs in states like Virginia,” read a fundraising email from Douglass Campaign Manager Gary Ritterstein.
The rhetorical wars are likely to escalate next month when the candidates square off in two debates. The first debate will be held on Oct. 10 in Danville, while the second will be held on Oct. 15 in Warrenton.
Election Day is Nov. 6.