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Cantor backs Janis' independent bid for prosecutor

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Bill Janis 308x231

Del. William R. Janis, R-Henrico, works at his desk after the floor session of the Virginia House of Delegates, Tuesday, April 12, 2011.

Del. Bill Janis, R-Henrico, abandoning his General Assembly seat to make a run as an independent for a prosecutor's job in his home county, is getting an infusion of contributions from longtime Republicans and his own, now-ended re-election campaign for the House of Delegates.

In another unusual shift Friday in a usually sedentary race for Henrico commonwealth's attorney, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced his support for Janis in the wake of campaign finance reports showing that the congressional leader from Henrico has put $10,000 toward Janis' candidacy.

"The congressman believes that Bill Janis is the best man for commonwealth's attorney," said Ray Allen, coordinator for Cantor's re-election bid to Congress. Allen said Cantor's "first priority is the people in his district and their safety."

The contribution and thousands of dollars more in money from longtime Republican figures are reflected on reports filed this week covering campaign donations through the end of August. Those same reports show that Janis' campaign as an independent has received at least $20,000 from his campaign for another term in the General Assembly as a Republican.

Janis dropped his run for another General Assembly term and announced his run for prosecutor at a courthouse news conference Aug. 17. Since then, he has received the endorsement of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, both Republicans.

Matthew P. Geary, meanwhile, who is the certified Republican candidate for Henrico prosecutor but who lost the backing of the county Republican Party hierarchy this summer, called Friday for an investigation into Janis' fundraising tactics.

"Someone needs to determine whether he can shift money from one campaign to another," said Geary, who has been running for the prosecutor's office for two years. He described Janis as willing to surrender his own political career to "machine politics" and has characterized Janis as too inexperienced for the job of criminal prosecutor.

Geary, a former chief deputy prosecutor in Richmond, has said he was asked to delay his run for office by Republican leaders but refused.

The Democratic candidate for Henrico prosecutor, Shannon Taylor, accused Cantor of placing "a higher priority on raw partisan gamesmanship and good old boy political alliances over the safety and well-being of the citizens of our community."

Janis cited state laws allowing the movement of money from one campaign to another, although historically that has occurred either with leftover funds or from one candidate to another.

"It's the Bill Janis for Delegate committee donating money to the Bill Janis for Commonwealth's Attorney committee," Janis said Friday.

Cantor's campaign said he will make a formal statement of support in coming days, and Janis said he and Cantor have scheduled a joint appearance Oct. 20 as part of Janis' campaign.

The Republican Party's shift was apparent last weekend when the Henrico Republican Party breakfast at Innsbrook on Saturday was highlighted by a Janis appearance in which longtime Republican Henrico Supervisor Patricia S. O'Bannon donated a $500 check to Janis' campaign.

Scores of lawn posters supported Janis. Geary made a brief appearance, standing at one point, he said, to "remind people there that I'm their candidate."

Geary said the Republican Party is failing to follow party rules requiring that members who support someone other than the party's candidate lose their voting privileges on local committees.

O'Bannon said she was unaware that she had effectively resigned from the party when she donated the check to Janis until she was shown an email to a reporter from county party leader David Johnson stating as much.

It was not clear what specific actions can rise to the level of supporting a nonparty candidate, but at least one longtime Republican openly said this week that she considers herself resigned from the county Republican Party because of her support of Janis.

"So far as my membership is concerned, there is no possible interpretation of the rules that results in me being in good standing with the party," said Anne Kellum, who joined more than a dozen county executive committee Republicans this summer in asking Geary to step down.

Geary has come under bitter attack since admitting to a now-ended extramarital affair and for supposedly lacking the necessary judgment for elected office.

Republicans from Kellum to Cantor spokesman Allen say the nonvoting sanction is hardly punitive.

"It doesn't matter to me," said Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade, former chairman of the county Republican Party, who supports Janis. "What's important is not party labels, it's character." Wade and others said that at the next meeting of the 300-plus members of the county Republican Party, voting members can simply reinstate resigned members.

Janis' campaign for prosecutor had amassed $102,343 in contributions as of the end of August, while Geary has collected $82,153. Geary's remaining balance was $22,105 at the end of August, while Janis' was $100,343. Taylor, the Democratic candidate and most recent entrant, reported $856 in contributions for the period, with $800 remaining.

Janis has received tens of thousands of dollars from traditional Republican sources and political PACs, including $31,000 from Move Ahead PAC, which is designed to support Republican candidates and whose registered agent is Janis' wife.

Campaign finance reports also show contributions to Janis from numerous Republican stalwarts: lawyer Richard Cullen, Dominion Resources Inc. President Thomas F. Farrell II, investor William H. Goodwin Jr. and House Speaker William J. Howell.

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