Months of negative campaigning has brought national attention to Kellen Squire and Amy Laufer’s Democratic primary race.
It also may have brought them a Republican challenger for the 55th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates come the general election in November.
“Speaking politically, if two Democrats are spending $400,000 tearing each other down, that helps my chances,” Steve Harvey told The Daily Progress on Monday.
The Ruckersville Republican, father of four, U.S. Army veteran and self-described “Catholic sinner” announced his candidacy for the seat on Monday morning at Hollymead Town Center.
In 2019, Harvey ran for the White Hall District seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors but lost to incumbent Democrat Ann Mallek.
He insists that the public spat between the Laufer and Squire campaigns was not the impetus for his decision to run for public office. Instead, he said that a Democrat running uncontested did not sit well with him.
“I spent three days in cold sweats thinking, ‘There’s going to be nobody on ballot. It’s going to be a total embarrassment,’” he said before referencing longtime Republican Del. Rob Bell from the district who decided not to run again this year. “You have Rob Bell in the seat for 20 years and then you have nobody on ballot? That’s insane.”
Squire claimed he will take the new opponent seriously, but said he’s not threatened by a conservative challenger.
“This district is nigh-on unwinnable for a Republican,” Squire told The Daily Progress in an email on Monday. “If the Republicans thought it was winnable, Rob Bell would not have retired.”
Harvey is largely focused on school choice, claiming that Albemarle County Public School students are still struggling even after the pandemic.
“We need competition,” he said, arguing that the state should fund religious schools, learning pods and other non-public-school options. “If just some of the money from the state level followed students, immediately schools would improve.”
Although Harvey said the public feud between both Democratic Party candidates — which began in earnest when Laufer released mailers questioning Squire’s commitment to pro-abortion policies — was not “super impactful” on his decision to run, some think the Democrat-on-Democrat attacks created fertile ground for a Republican challenger to rise.
Squire said he broached this issue as far back as January. “Part of why I was so disappointed to see Amy Laufer spread those lies was exactly that,” Squire said.
The emergency room nurse maintains that he is pro-abortion and that attacks from the Laufer campaign were disingenuous attempts to take previous statements he made out of context.
Laufer, Squire claimed, was at one point telling people publicly that she and Squire were equally pro-choice while simultaneously “laying the groundwork for these attacks on me.”
In an interview with The Daily Progress last week, Laufer defended the mailers sent out by her campaign, arguing that, “The statements [Squire] has had in the past are his direct quotes from his website and multiple other documents.”
Since Harvey’s announcement, the Laufer campaign released a statement to The Daily Progress saying that, “The battle for women’s abortion rights continues through November.”
Watching the back-and-forth from afar, Harvey said he found their positions on reproductive rights to be “quite creepy.”
“It makes me kind of creeped out how enthusiastically pro-abortion both candidates are,” he said. “Virginia needs to be having serious conversations about human rights about all classes of humans and when those human rights begin.”
Asked when he believes “those human rights begin”, Harvey responded that they begin “in utero for certain.”
Abortion is legal in Virginia up until 26 weeks and six days of pregnancy. That could change if Republicans take control of the General Assembly this November.
If nothing else, Harvey hopes that having a Republican on the ticket will make voters feel like they have a choice in the general election.
“We can’t have democracy with only one name on ballot,” he said. “It’s an outrage that even could’ve been the case.”