Instead of challenging Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, for his seat, Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade has decided to run for Congress in the adjacent 4th District.
The newly configured 4th is now set to include Richmond and Petersburg.
“I’m going to run in the 4th instead of the 7th,” Wade, 60, said in an interview Wednesday.
“Opportunities like this don’t come up all time,” the Republican said. “Congress is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Wade said his interest in a congressional run is an extension of his desire to “do something about mental health and substance abuse,” adding that he also has ideas for reforms in the criminal justice and corrections system.
Wade had filed with the Federal Elections Commission to challenge Brat, the freshman congressman who took office last year after his historic 2014 upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary.
But Wade said his efforts were complicated by uncertainty over congressional redistricting, as well as the possibility that Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-4th, could enter the 7th District primary race in a reconfigured district.
“I never really officially announced because of Randy Forbes,” Wade said.
Now that Forbes has decided to run in the 2nd District, where Rep. Scott Rigell is not seeking re-election, Wade thought a better opportunity lay in the reconfigured 4th, where there is currently no announced Republican candidate.
State Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, filed with the FEC to run for the 4th District seat on Friday.
The district’s newly configured boundaries, which take effect in January 2017, favor Democrats to win the seat.
A three-judge panel on Jan. 7 imposed the map with the new Virginia congressional districts that candidates will run in this fall. The judges redrew the 3rd and 4th districts — and made lesser changes in the 1st, 2nd and 7th districts.
The judges imposed the new map in order to fix what they found to be a constitutional flaw with the 3rd District, represented by Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. The judges found that, in 2012, Virginia legislators packed too many additional blacks into the 3rd District, diluting their influence in surrounding districts.
Republicans currently hold eight of Virginia’s 11 U.S. House seats.
On Tuesday, Wade called Brat to inform him of his plans. He also said he filed to run in the 4th District.
While Wade lives in the 7th District, he is no stranger to the 4th District. He grew up in Ginter Park and still attends St. Paul’s Church in North Side.
The sheriff, who has spent nearly 42 years in public service, said he has no illusions that winning in the 4th District will be any easier than challenging Brat in a party primary.
“It will be tough, but I have a message that will reach out to the people, and I think I would do well,” he said.
Candidates must submit 1,500 signatures by March 31 to qualify for the primary. Wade said he will announce supporters and more details about his campaign in the coming days.