Virginia’s Top Republican Beats Tea-Party Challenger and Vows to 'Work Together'

June 10, 2015 AT 10:45 AM

Virginia’s top Republican easily withstood a ­tea-party primary challenge Tuesday, signaling that a deeply fractured state GOP may be finding its footing at a crucial time when national Republicans are preparing for the 2016 presidential race.

With all precincts reporting, House Speaker William J. Howell (Stafford) defeated challenger Susan Stimpson, a former Stafford County supervisor and onetime Howell protege, by a 2-to-1 ratio, according to unofficial returns.

Stimpson was inspired, in part, by the stunning GOP primary defeat one year ago of then-U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by unknown economics professor Dave Brat. But Howell, who was nominated for his 15th term in the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday, was well prepared for the challenge, raising vastly more money and waging an aggressive campaign in his Fredericksburg-area district about 50 miles south of Washington. He did so despite opposition from the national group Americans for Tax Reform and prominent conservative donor Foster Friess.

“This is a time for the party to unite and find out what we can do together,” Howell said at his victory party at the Paradise Diner in Fredericksburg. “We can’t win if we don’t work together.”

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