By Joe Beck
MOUNT JACKSON -- A group of Shenandoah County Republicans gathered Saturday to hear from two candidates for federal offices making an early case for why they should be chosen to represent their party in the general election in November.
Shak Hill, running for the U.S. Senate, and Paul Bevington, a candidate for Congress in the 6th District, both face opposition from better known and better-funded candidates.
Hill is running against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.
Congressional policy adviser Tony DeTora and businessman Chuck Moss have also filed papers declaring their Senate candidacies.
The Senate nominee will be chosen by delegates to the statewide party convention in Roanoke on June 7.
Bevington is running against Bob Goodlatte, who was first elected to Congress in 1992.
The 6th District includes all or part of Roanoke, Bedford, Botetourt, Rockbridge, Amherst, Bath, Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, and Warren counties.
Saturday's event, hosted by the Republican Women of Shenandoah County, also included a few remarks by Matt Homer, a representative of the Gillespie campaign.
Hill, 49, of Centreville, said he is running as a crusader for a conservative interpretation of the Constitution.
"I can't do nothing," Hill said. "Right now, our Constitution needs defending more than at any time in my life because our Constitution is being shredded."
Hill told the audience he is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and flew combat missions during the first Persian Gulf War in 1990 and 1991. Since then, he said, he has acquired a master's degree in finance and operates a finance and insurance business.
Hill argued that Gillespie is vulnerable to attacks in the general election from Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. Hill cited Gillespie's support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program passed in late 2008 to prop up big financial institutions during the subprime mortgage crisis as a likely problem for Gillespie in the fall campaign.
Hill also warned that Gillespie had supported an initiative to create a non-elected taxing body in Virginia that was overturned by the state Supreme Court. Hill also criticized Gillespie for supporting "compulsory insurance for all emancipated adults using the tax code" as a tool for implementing it.
"I am Mark Warner's worst nightmare and Ed Gillespie is Warner's best hope," Hill said.
Hill also predicted that Warner would attack him on two issues -- gun ownership rights and his anti-abortion beliefs.
"I am a constitutional carry guy, and I'm packing," Hill told the audience to laughter and applause, adding, "and Mark Warner is going trash me on that."
Homer told the audience that Gillespie has never supported President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
"In interviews he's done, he's on record speaking against the Affordable Care Act before it even passed," Homer said of Gillespie.
Bevington, 51, a high school world history and government teacher in Buena Vista, said he is preparing to gather more than 1,000 signatures that would enable him to gain a place on the ballot in the June 10 congressional primary.
Bevington cited opposition to surveillance practices by the National Security Agency as one of his biggest issues.
"One of the major things that made me decide to run was this surveillance state that we seem to be going toward," Bevington said.
Bevington criticized the Patriot Act, which expanded NSA surveillance authority to "allow any electronic communication to be hacked or overhead." He also condemned the National Defense Authorization Act for denying some defendants the right to an attorney, the right to hear the charges against them and allows for indefinite detention.
"Why would our government pass anything like this?" Bevington asked
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org