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Former Rep. Leslie Byrne (D) has picked up the endorsement of the powerful fundraising group EMILY’s List in her campaign to retake the 11th district seat she lost to retiring Rep. Tom Davis (R) in 1994.

The endorsement of EMILY’s List, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, comes in the wake of Davis’ announcement last week that he would not seek an eighth term in the battleground suburban Washington, D.C., district.

In 1992, Byrne became the first woman elected to Congress in the Commonwealth but went on to lose to Davis after just one term. More recently, Byrne served in the state Senate and then ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 2005.

With the support of EMILY’s List, Byrne likely will now receive heavy financial support from the group’s large donor base. And that support will be crucial in the months leading up to the June primary.

In that race, Byrne is facing Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D), who was being recruited by top Democratic officials last year when he was in the midst of running for re-election as board chairman. Connolly’s campaign announced last week that it had brought in $160,000 in the three weeks since forming an exploratory committee, and he is expected to formally launch his candidacy in a matter of weeks.

On the Republican side, early reports indicate party leaders are keeping an eye on businessman Keith Fimian, who filed his statement of candidacy in August. According to FEC reports, he had $656,191 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

With Virginia’s filing deadline set for April 11, Republicans in the 11th district still have time to coalesce around a candidate.
— John McArdle

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