Collins defeats incumbent Berg for GOP nod

Christopher Collins

Christopher Collins unseated Del. Mark Berg in Tuesday’s Republican primary in the 29th District, the second consecutive loss for an incumbent GOP lawmaker in the district.

Berg experienced the same fate as Beverly Sherwood, whom he narrowly defeated in the 2013 Republican primary.

Collins, a Winchester defense attorney and former member of the Frederick County Board of Supervisors, campaigned on a promise to improve communications between residents of the 29th District and their representative in Richmond. Collins criticized Berg for failing to meet with Frederick County supervisors when they came to visit him in Richmond.

Collins, 44, also questioned Berg’s overall effectiveness by citing bills Berg introduced that were quickly scrapped by his colleagues.

With all precincts reporting, Collins had won 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Berg. Berg took Frederick and Warren counties, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the margin Collins ran up in Winchester, which he won 64 percent to 36 percent.

Mark Berg

Berg, 55, a retired emergency room and family practice physician, won in 2013 with strong support from local Tea Party activists. Berg himself was one of those activists before running for the General Assembly, and his website touted a 100 percent rating from the Virginia Tea Party for his votes during the 2014 legislative session.

He proclaimed opposition to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion as two of his biggest priorities while consistently reminding voters of his commitment to social and fiscal conservativism.

The three sheriffs within the 29th District — Daniel McEathron in Warren County, Robert Williamson in Frederick County and Les Taylor in Winchester — all endorsed Collins, who was a deputy sheriff in Frederick County before becoming a criminal defense attorney.

Collins also had an advantage in fundraising, especially during the April-May reporting period.

Collins attributed his win to dogged door-to-door campaigning over the last three months “and working very hard to unseat an incumbent, which is not an easy thing to do.”

“We talked about jobs and the economy and education, and I think those things resonated with the residents of the 29th District,” Collins added. “They wanted to give me a chance in Richmond to prove that I can get it done.”

Collins’ win makes him the probable winner of the November General Election. The campaign plans of a prospective Democratic candidate dissolved in recent days over paperwork errors when she attempted to register her candidacy. The state Board of Elections filing deadline was 7 p.m. Tuesday. Collins said he had received no indication that anyone else had filed as a candidate in the General Election. A write-in candidacy is the only remaining option for a prospective opponent.

Collins said he will continue to work through November and beyond in an effort to win over those who didn’t vote for him.

“I didn’t win by such a large margin,” Collins said. “I don’t think the citizens of the 29th are quite ready to give me a pass.”

Berg could not be reached for comment after the votes were counted.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com