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Charlie Diradour to Challenge Cantor

Local developer launches campaign to unseat Congressman Eric Cantor.

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Charlie Diradour, a longtime Democratic political adviser and self-described fiscal conservative, is running for Congress.

A local real estate developer who became one of the leading opponents to the Shockoe Bottom ballpark proposal earlier this year, Diradour hopes to unseat Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Henrico, the minority party's whip in the lower house.

Diradour is a Fan resident who got his start working as a volunteer on former Attorney Mary Sue Terry's political campaign in 1985. He advised former City Council President William J. Pantele in his bid for mayor last year.

More recently, Diradour launched a Web site for supporters of keeping minor league baseball at The Diamond on the Boulevard, and became a vocal critic of Highwoods Properties' plan to build a $363 million, ballpark-anchored development in the Bottom. Highwoods, facing harsh public criticism and questions about the project's financing, pulled out of the project in July.

Bringing down Cantor, a rising and well-funded GOP star, won't be so easy. The 7th District, which stretches from the Richmond's West End to Rappahannock County in the north, and includes portions of Henrico and Chesterfield counties, is considered a Republican stronghold. Cantor is up for reelection in November 2010.

“It's always good to have competition, but the climb is steep in a solidly Republican district,” says Daniel J. Palazzolo, professor of political science at the University of Richmond. “I don't see the kinds of conditions that would make a Republican in the 7th District vulnerable.”

Diradour says he's up to the challenge. He says he's already raised “substantial pledges,” and figures he'll need at least $1 million to mount a credible challenge. A tireless pol with years of campaign experience, Diradour is hitting the campaign trail and has launched a campaign Web site, www.charlieforthe7th.com. He says the reception from regular voters and campaign donors has been encouraging.

Diradour insists that he's not running a sacrificial campaign. “If I run, I want to see a clear path to victory,” he says, “not just be a token, somebody who gets 35 percent.”

But after an unprecedented presidential election a year ago -- after 40 years of Republican dominance in presidential elections, Obama comfortably won Virginia -- the pendulum is swinging back to the GOP.

The political environment doesn't “look favorable for a Democrat,” Palazzolo says. But that doesn't mean Diradour doesn't have a prayer, he says: “You can't say he'll never win, because there's always a ‘macaca’ possibility.”

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