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Shakeout Tuesday
The Republicans pick their state Senate candidates

Date published: 8/25/2011

IF GENERAL ELECTIONS are Olym-pics, primaries are trials in which political parties try to select the strongest candidates for November's big show. That's the theory, anyway, but sometimes ultrazealous primary voters choose candidates who are too extreme for more mainstream general electorates. How did the state GOP, which hopes to take control of the Virginia Senate, fare Tuesday in fielding electable candidates?

In the 36th Senate District, which takes in a piece of Stafford County, Earthquake Day was no time for builders. There, Republican voters overwhelmingly favored ex-delegate and -state GOP chairman Jeff Frederick (see "Correction" below) over Tito "The Builder" Muñoz, a Latino radio host known for squiring Sarah Palin around the hustings in 2008. In November, Mr. Frederick will face Democrat Toddy Puller, who, though no ball o' fire, has 19 years of incumbency at her back. In Mr. Frederick, what's more, she is facing a walking catalog of conservative cliches whose intemperance got him booted from the party chairmanship.

The power of incumbency should never be discounted, and GOP primaries are no exception. In the 3rd District, around Williamsburg, Sen. Tommy Norment, a relative moderate and solon since 1992, walloped Tea Partyer Mark Frechette. Mr. Norment has no Democratic opponent, one of the blessings of political gerrymandering.

Meanwhile, Dick Black eked out a win in a three-man race in Senate District 13 in Prince William and Loudoun counties. Mr. Black is not a true-blue incumbent, but he served eight years in the House, which got him valuable name recognition. Alas, it wasn't all the positive kind: His distribution of plastic fetuses to colleagues before an abortion vote made eyes roll on both sides of the aisle, and in Democrat Shawn Mitchell he faces a businessman and Army combat veteran in a region of the state whose politics are in flux.

In the 22nd District, as compact as an oil spill but mostly around Lynchburg, Tom Garrett, self-proclaimed "Cuccinelli Republican," bested four others. He will run against Lynchburg businessman Bert Dodson, who's regionally famed for exterminating most of his foes--those with six legs. Mr. Garrett is a certified biped in a GOP-leaning district, but the race could be competitive.

GOP Senate candidates shape up overall as hard, even adamantine, right, a profile that often appalls the press more than normal Virginia voters. Whether Republicans selected their Senate A-Team on Tuesday, only time will tell. In fact, a specific time: poll hours on Nov. 8.