In Northern Virginia, GOP Factions Duel Over Crucial House Seat

Sen. Rand Paul, who has yet to endorse Donald Trump, campaigns for Cameron Hamilton

June 5, 2024

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) on Monday called for "better Republicans" at a campaign event for House hopeful Cameron Hamilton in Fredericksburg, Va. Others in the party, however, think Hamilton's primary opponent, Derrick Anderson, is the better Republican in the race, emphasizing a primary battle in a crucial swing district between the GOP's isolationist wing and those who favor a muscular foreign policy.

"This is the time to make your choice. It isn't in November when you say, 'Oh well, the Republican is the lesser of two evils,'" said Paul, who has endorsed Hamilton and given his campaign over a million dollars. "We need better Republicans in Washington; that's why I'm supporting Cameron Hamilton." Anderson, meanwhile, has garnered support and funding from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) and other GOP leaders, including House majority leader Steve Scalise (R., La.) and House Republican Conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y).

Illustrative of the intraparty differences in the race are comments that Hamilton made in April regarding aid to Israel. After expressing hesitance toward his support for supplemental aid to the Jewish state during a March radio appearance, Hamilton reversed course, telling Jewish Insider that he would support such aid. Then, during a subsequent radio appearance, Hamilton flipped back, saying he has "initial apprehension about sending more and more dollars overseas when we're in such a big deficit."

"I'm not really sure," Hamilton concluded. "I need to see some of the audits and take a firmer look at the actual aid package that's going forward." Anderson criticized Hamilton's Israel comments, saying, "Strong leaders will be able to confront the crises we face at home at the same time we help protect our closest ally in the Middle East in their time of existential peril."

In addition to the foreign policy squabbles, Paul's visit to the district comes as the Kentucky Republican raises eyebrows over his decision thus far to refrain from endorsing former president Donald Trump. Paul has cozied up to third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has had several closed-door meetings in Paul's Senate office, the Washington Free Beacon reported last week. Kennedy is advised by Paul's chief strategist and former chief of staff Doug Stafford. Stafford, who served as a senior adviser to Paul's failed 2016 presidential campaign and executive director of Paul's political action committee, received $30,000 from Kennedy's campaign for consulting services.

The district has an open seat following the Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger's decision to run for governor of Virginia. The race is seen as a tossup and a keen opportunity for Republicans to strengthen their slim majority in the House.

Paul, who at Monday's campaign stop sought to draw a distinction between the two GOP candidates, lauded hardline Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus while accusing Johnson of "siding" with Democrats on issues such as budget cuts and foreign aid. If elected, Hamilton has pledged to join the Freedom Caucus, which played a key role in ousting former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).

Both candidates have played up their ties to Trump. "I am the clear America First choice in Virginia's 7th," Hamilton told the Free Beacon following Monday's campaign event with Paul. "Derrick Anderson has never publicly endorsed President Trump and is running a campaign fueled by Nikki Haley's donors and strategists who advised him to avoid the issue until he found it politically expedient."

"President Trump doesn't win or receive the support that he does by aligning himself as a moderate," Hamilton added.

Anderson's campaign noted that he voiced support for Trump in March after his win in the Virginia presidential primary. "It’s time for strong leadership - Donald Trump is that leader," Anderson wrote on X (formerly Twitter). "He’s the guy to make the hard, necessary changes to make our country better."

Several of Hamilton's top supporters originally endorsed candidates other than Trump for president. Reps. Bob Good (R., Va.), Chip Roy (R., Texas), and Thomas Massie (R., Ky.), all of whom endorsed and gave money to Hamilton, initially backed Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Good eventually endorsed Trump, but it was "too late," the former president said. Trump last week endorsed Good's primary opponent, John McGuire.

"He turned his back on our incredible movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave a warm and 'loving' Endorsement," Trump wrote on TruthSocial. "But really, it was too late. The damage had been done!"

Hamilton said during a Monday morning radio appearance that he doesn't have to provide justification for why the biggest backers of his campaign have been lukewarm on Trump. Anderson thinks differently, saying on the same radio show Saturday that the discrepancy "muddies the water" for Virginia voters.

Hamilton and Anderson have both touted their service in the federal government, though Anderson has taken issue with Hamilton's service. While Hamilton was hired at DHS during the Trump administration, he served most of his tenure during the Biden administration, under Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Anderson worked at the Office of National Drug Control Policy for nearly two years during the Trump administration, between 2017 and 2019.

"There are serious contrasts in this race. Derrick—who is from this district—worked for Trump to crack down on the fentanyl crisis and secure our border. Cameron Hamilton—who just moved to the district—worked for Biden's DHS for 3 years as millions of illegal immigrants streamed over the border," Anderson campaign manager Diego de la Pena told the Free Beacon. "The fact is that as Republican primary voters learn about Hamilton's career with Biden and Mayorkas, they are severely concerned by his candidacy. Hamilton has also flip-flopped on Israel aid and has aligned himself with the Never Trump/pro-RFK wing of the Republican party in the closing days of the primary campaign."