Virginia Congressional Recap

By VA Blogger

With under a month to the filing deadline and just over 80 days until the primaries (conventions may be scheduled on a different date), let’s take a look at how the Virginia’s House races are shaping up. The current make-up is eight Republicans to three Democrats, thanks to 2000 redistricting and Republicans controlling both swing districts.

None of the three Democrats are particularly vulnerable. In Northern Virginia, incumbent Jim Moran always has the potential to make embarrassingly dumb comments, and challenger Mark Ellmore is running a solid campaign thus far, but the district is so heavily Democratic that it doesn’t seem to matter. In VA-09 and VA-03, Republicans will be lucky to even field a candidate.

Of the eight Republican seats up, one is a veritable toss-up, one is slightly vulnerable, and the other six are safe incumbents. Race-by-race analysis after the fold.

VA-01: Congressman Rob Wittman (R) vs. Keith Hummel (D)

2006 results: Davis (R) 63%, O’Donnell (D) 35%

2004 results: Davis (R) 79%

PVI: R +9

Wittman’s greatest challenge in this district is more likely to be a Republican primary opponent than a Democrat. In the December ’07 special election, Democrats were thrilled to have what they thought was an opening with a strong candidate in a race where the national party could flex its muscles and steal a GOP seat. Forgit then promptly underperformed John Kerry in the district. Understandably, Forgit declined a rematch; however, if Wittman won with more than 60% of the vote in a special election, a general election campaign will be twice as difficult for Democrats.

Even among Republicans, however, Wittman seems to have no particular enemies. This is the benefit of the nominating process that those in the VA-01 GOP agreed upon: a consensus candidate that no one really has an objection to. Of the candidates that threw their name into the ring, the one that is most likely to challenge Wittman in the primary is activist Paul Jost.

Outlook: Safe Republican Retention

VA-02: Congresswoman Thelma Drake (R) vs. Glenn Nye (D)

2006 results: Drake (R) 51%, Kellam (D) 48%

2004 results: Drake (R) 55%, Ashe (D) 45%

PVI: R +6

Nye is the third choice—at minimum—candidate who joined the race about a month ago. Following a favorable profile in CQ, Virginia Democrats are high on his chances. Then again, they were high on Phil Forgit’s chances too. Nye joined the race after ’04 and ’06 candidates Ashe and Kellam declined to run again, and Sheriff McCabe abruptly pulled out of the race.

Drake has never had an easy time in this district, winning a special election in ’03, then back-to-back razor thin margins of victory in ’04 and ’06. Her ’06 election was notable, however, in the sense that her swing district was retained in a Democratic wave year. After two tough elections in four years, Drake has now settled in well in the district, and is much more established as an incumbent. The demographics of the district demand that it will still be a swing district, and as such expect to see a healthy amount of national money to be sunk into the race. However, Drake has proven her mettle as a tough campaigner, and with John McCain at the top of the ticket and a heavy military population, Drake’s chances look good here.

Outlook: Likely Republican Retention

VA-03: Congressman Bobby Scott (D) vs. ?

2006 results: Scott (D) 96%

2004 results: Scott (D) 69%, Sears (R) 31%

PVI: D +16

The 3rd district is in the “Gerrymandering Hall of Fame” for its ability to cut a swatch of land that encompasses both downtown Norfolk and parts of Richmond, creating both a minority-heavy and strongly Democratic district. Bobby Scott has been unopposed for most of his time in Congress, and is likely to stay that way in 2008.

As an aside, several Democrats are keen on finding candidates in every district, in an attempt to, as they say, “Expand the Map”. Thus, you see Democratic blogs excited about such races as Nebraska Senate, and (for instance) VA-05. While there is nothing wrong with fielding candidates in races you’re unlikely to win, it can lead to people diverting attention away from races they *can* win. If Republicans were to field a candidate against Scott in 2008, I would welcome the development. However, opposition or not, Bobby Scott will be the Congressman from the 3rd District on January 5th, 2009. I don’t see a need to dwell over this fact.

Outlook: Safe Democratic Retention

VA-04: Congressman Randy Forbes (R) vs Andrea Miller (D)

2006 results: Forbes (R) 76%

2004 results: Forbes (R) 64%, Menefee (D) 35%

PVI: R +5

Forbes’s history in this district is similar to Scott’s, in the sense that he is often not challenged for re-election, due to his conservative bona fides and the rural, Republican nature of the district. Whenever you see an entrenched Republican in a Republican district receive a challenger, you typically expect a certain centrism from that challenger. Things such as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage, anti-tax, et al. Democrats are common in such situations. Not here.

Andrea Miller served as a regional organizer for Rep. Dennis Kucinich in his far-left bid for U.S. President. Before that, she served as regional organizer for MoveOn.org, a group infamously remembered for calling Gen. David Petraeus a traitor. Let’s just say that she’s not likely to challenge Forbes for the middle ground in the district.

Outlook: Safe Republican Retention

VA-05: Congressman Virgil Goode (R) vs. Tom Perriello (D)

2006 results: Goode (R) 59%, Weed (D) 40%

2004 results: Goode (R) 64%, Weed (D) 36%

PVI: R +6

Virgil Goode of course is the Virginia Congressman who has rankled some for his controversial statements about those from the Middle East that is not named Jim Moran. Goode angered many with his remarks about Rep. Keith Ellison being sworn in on the Koran, and his statements opposed to legal immigration. Yet, despite the ample amount of material to work with, Democrats can’t gain traction in this heavily Republican district.

The presumptive nominee Tom Perriello is no different. Highly regarded by left-wing sites like Raising Kaine (who highly regard any Democratic challenger to a politician they don’t like, regardless of their chance to win), he nonetheless has a very steep hill to climb, no matter how hard he campaigns and how much money he raises.

Some believe that Goode’s remarks and often divisive comments will turn voters against him, but given his long history in the district, Goode needs a lot more than a few words to unseat him; he needs a Spitzer-esque scandal. Absent that, this seat will be his for a while.

Outlook: Safe Republican Retention

VA-06: Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R) vs. Sam Rasoul (D)/Drew Richardson (D)

2006 results: Goodlatte (R) 75%

2004 results: Goodlatte (R) 97%

PVI: +11

I don’t know much about either Rasoul or Richardson (though references to being a special agent will be fun this campaign cycle), so I’ll talk about Goodlatte and in this district. Goodlatte has been unopposed for re-election since 1998. In fact, of the seven times he’s ran for re-election, he’s only been opposed twice, and never received under 67% of the vote.

A big reason why is that VA-06 can be described as the most Republican district in the state. True enough, both VA-06 and VA-07 have a Cook PVI rating of R+11 (meaning the district votes, on average, for a Republican by 11 points higher than the national average), but Bush won here with 63% of the vote in 2004, compared to 61% in VA-07.

With much better prospects in VA-02 and VA-11, and animosity towards Virgil Goode in VA-05 attracting the attention of those interested in long-shot campaigns, this race probably won’t get much attention from the state grassroots, let alone the media.

Outlook: Safe Republican Retention

VA-07: Congressman Eric Cantor (R) vs. Anita Hartke (D)

2006 results: Cantor (R) 64%, Nachman (D) 34%

2004 results: Cantor (R) 75%

PVI: R +11

Cantor is much more of a darling of Virginia conservatives than any of the other safe incumbents (Forbes, Goode, and Goodlatte), evidenced by his leadership position in the House and the draft effort to get him to run for Senate (maybe 2012, right?), and is also in one of the most conservative districts in the state. I’m sure Anita Hartke is a good person, but there’s not much to write about this one.

Outlook: Safe Republican Retention

VA-08: Congressman Jim Moran (D) vs. Mark Ellmore (R)/Basil Mossaidis (R)/Dianne Kelly (R)/Amit Singh (R)

2006 results: Moran (D) 66%, O’Donoghue (R) 31%

2004 results: Moran (D) 60%, Cheney (D) 37%

PVI: D +14

Jim Moran routinely attracts challengers, due to his often publicized statements about the Jewish-American lobby in particular, but this district was built for a Democrat, and thus remains uncompetitive. I don’t know much beyond a Google search on Mossaidis, Kelly, and Singh (who just got into the race in the last few months), but I’ve met and seen Mark Ellmore several times and I’ve been impressed by his level of commitment. In a favorable GOP year, he might even be considered a dark horse candidate for an upset. However, 2008 is not likely to be a favorable GOP year, and the NRSC has virtually no resources to help turn the tide.

Outlook: Safe Democratic Retention

VA-09: Congressman Rick Boucher (D) vs. Jody Egan? (R)

2006 results: Boucher (D) 59%, Triplett (R) 39%

2004 results: Boucher (D) 68%, Carrico (R) 32%

PVI: R +7

There’s some confusion with this race that hopefully somebody in the comments can sort out. According to Smyth County Conservative, the February meeting of the 9th District GOP met with no announced or prospective candidate to challenge Boucher this cycle. However, a local newspaper announced that foundry employee Jody Egan planned to run against Boucher in December 2007. Egan also has a website here.

Whatever the case, it’s not likely to change the results. Boucher has been in Congress for over 20 years, and despite the Republican lean of the district, he has been handedly re-elected continually throughout his career. Due to his seniority, he also sits in a favorable position on the House Judiciary Committee. His obvious cross-over appeal and status as a solid Congressmen had led to some to urge Boucher to run for higher office, but this would almost certainly result in the seat being taken over by the GOP. Until then, the seat will likely remain Boucher’s for a while.

Outlook: Safe Democratic Retention

VA-10: Congressman Frank Wolf (R)/Vern McKinley (R) vs. Judy Feder (D)/Michael Turner (D)

2006 results: Wolf (R) 57%, Feder (D) 41%

2004 results: Wolf (R) 64%, Socas(D) 36%

PVI: R +5

Both Wolf and Feder have attracted minor primary challenges, but the heavyweight bout is the rematch between these two from 2006. At least, that’s the kind of attention it attracts from some in the media and blogosphere, despite the fact that Feder is obviously the wrong kind of candidate to run in this ex-urban district.

If there was ever a year where Wolf had a chance to lose it was 2006. Despite heavy coverage and being on equal ground financially, Feder wound up just short of Wolf. Sixteen points short, that is, attracting just 41% of the vote in a district that John Kerry won 44% of the vote just two years earlier.

This cycle, Wolf’s fundraising has improved, and with a Republican like John McCain at the top of the ticket, Wolf should have no problem maintaining his firm grip on Republicans, Independents, moderates, and soft Democrats alike, ensuring that one of the best Congressman will return for another term in the 111th Congress.

Outlook: Safe Republican Retention

VA-11: Keith Fimian (R)/Skip Dale (R) vs. Gerry Connolly (D)/Leslie Byrne (D)/Doug Denneny (D)/Lori Alexander (D)

2006 results: Davis (R) 55%, Hurst (D) 44%

2004 results: Davis (R) 60%, Longmeyer (D) 38%

PVI: R +1

This will be one of the most competitive races in the country, so it is by far the most competitive in the state. With an open seat in a swing district, the DCCC will likely invest heavily here (and not much elsewhere in Virginia). Which is good news for Democrats, because so far Connolly and Byrne haven’t found much success in raising money compared to business owner Keith Fimian, who is the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. Last I heard, Skip Dale was still running but someone can correct me if this is not true.

The upcoming primary between Connolly and Byrne will be epic. Unlike the lackluster Miller vs. Webb primary in 2006, this one features pro-business money versus labor union activism, which promises at least the whiff of blood, if not a full-on slugfest. Coupled with that is the presence of Doug Denneny, who doesn’t stand a chance to win, but having been recently endorsed by VoteVets.org, might see some money float into the district on his behalf. Two polls have been conducted, each on behalf of a candidate, showing conflicting results, but nonetheless proving that the primary is wide open, and a tough campaign will be necessary for winning it.

Until polling is released, it’s hard to gauge how well Fimian will do in the district, despite outgoing Rep. Tom Davis’s support and the establishment (and NRSC) lining up behind him. His success at gaining individual donations suggests that he’s made quite an impact in the district for someone who has never run for public office before. Either way, Fimian has enough money available (both in donations and in self-funding) to ensure that this will be a competitive race for every vote.

Outlook: Toss-up


Comments

  • Frank says:

    Hello VA Blogger,
    You wrote: “In Northern Virginia, incumbent Jim Moran always has the potential to make embarrassingly dumb comments, and challenger Mark Ellmore is running a solid campaign thus far, but the district is so heavily Democratic that it doesn’t seem to matter.”

    Have you looked into the new campaign of Amit Singh? http://www.Amit08.com in District 08.

  • Jason says:

    I actually think Amit Singh stands a good chance. I like how his website shows actual donations instead of “pledges” like it does on Mark Ellmore’s.

  • [...] Too Conservative has a great post up today handicapping the races in all eleven of Virginia’s Congressional Districts. [...]

  • VA Blogger says:

    Frank and Jason, I promise I’ll take some time and re-evaluate all the candidates in the 8th. First, I want to see who all makes it to the filing deadline, as surprise additions and drop-outs usually occur right around then.

    In this post, I was speaking only on personal experience, and I’ve had several positive encounters with Ellmore, who has been running for this seat since last Summer, and I’ve only seen Singh in person once.

  • NOVA_GOPguy says:

    I was interested in Amit’s campaign until I received an email blast from his campaign attacking Governor Gilmore and his opponent. “Do you want these pro-war, police statist neocons to get all the attention???” We need to be unified this year and why on earth would someone attack a fellow Republican they are not even in a primary under?

  • anon says:

    Overall a really great post.

    The one place I might disagree is with the Feder/Turner race. I think Turner could quietly catch Feder. He is impressive in person, and she comes off really strange and a little bit cartoonish.

    I think the primary in the 11th could be a blood bath. Hopefully it will shut down and shut up Leslie Bryne once and for all.

  • Excellent thoughts – I think you meant to give an outlook of Safe Democratic Retention in the 3rd District.

    I still cannot believe Jim Moran regularly wins re-election. I really really hope the Byrne-Connolly race destroys both of them politically.

  • David says:

    Drake did not win a special election in 2003. She was first elected in 2004, then reelected in 2006. She has only run two times, not three times.

  • Steve says:

    To Nova_GOPguy,

    As someone volunteering their time for the Amit Singh campaign, which blast email are you referring to? The campaign has not attacked Jim Gilmore in any official capacity at all. I’ve actually met Jim Gilmore a few times in Virginia and he’s been a class act in all encounters I’ve had with him.

  • Tom says:

    Hey Nova_GOPguy, I didn’t get that email, and I’ve been on the list for almost a month now.

    What in the world are you talking about??

    I call troll.

  • Rachel says:

    I would like to echo Steve & Tom’s comments regarding comments against Gillmore. No such attacks from Amit or the campaign have ever been made and I’ve been there since the beginning. Just want to set the record straight.

  • NOVA_GOPguy says:

    The email did come out. I was furious and I saved it in my email archives. It was sent on Thursday Feb 26 at 10:26AM and the subject was Operation Parade Bomb.
    The line in the email where I stopped paying attention to Amit’s campaign was “Former Governor Jim Gilmore and the other candidate, Mark Ellmore, will be walking in the parade. Do you want these pro-war, police statist neocons to get all the attention???” Why is the campaign attacking Gilmore who is not in a Congressional Primary?

  • Tom says:

    OK I just checked my entire email history and dude, I didn’t get that email.

    I asked a friend of mine who also signed up and he didn’t get it either.

    Although the interesting thing is that if your email is indeed for real, the guy who wrote it does kinda have a point.

    Mark Ellmore and Jim Gilmore are definitely pro-war and Jim Gilmore loved beefing up the police state in Virginia when he was governor.

    But the main thing that I can’t stand about Jim Gilmore, more than anything, is the way he simply won’t talk about the issues. Especially when compared to the other Senate candidate, Bob Marshall. Bob Marshall’s the man!

    I asked Jim Gilmore last month how he would balance the budget and he totally dodged the question. He’s shifty and it almost seems like he’s afraid to stand for something. He pretty much relies on the whole “Vote for me so that we can beat the Democrats” crap to get elected.

    Sorry, but I’m just not going to blindly vote for a Republican just because there is an “R” next to his name. Crap like that gets us Tom Davis and Frank Wolf for 20 years straight.

    On the other hand, I asked Amit Singh the same questions and he gave me concrete answers with clear objectives and a clear plan.

    Finally, a politician that gives a straight answer!

    Anyway, that’s one of the main reasons that I’m supporting Amit Singh and if you won’t . . . well, I guess you’ll have to choose between left (Ellmore) and leftER (Moran).

  • VA Blogger says:

    I wouldn’t consider Tom Davis and Frank Wolf to be crap… I imagine slash-and-burn politics against two widely respected Congressmen isn’t the best way to win a Northern Virginia Republican primary.

  • Will says:

    I have volunteered a lot of time to the Amit Singh campaign and I can assure you that “slash-and-burn politics” do not have a place in his campaign. In fact, he has repeatedly discouraged such negativity. He is running on sound principals. His message will speak for itself. He does not need to attack others in order to elevate himself. I would encourage you to learn more about him first hand. Do not hastily write him off over some errant comment you may have received in an email from an overzealous supporter.

  • johnmaxfield says:

    Isn’t Sam Rasoul one of only 3 Muslims running for Congress this year? And the dhimmi Dems in the 6th are going to nominate him!

  • VA Blogger says:

    Will, I don’t associate Singh with the comments of his supporters, but at present I know little about him or his candidacy. And when someone in the same breath trashes Tom Davis and Frank Wolf and promotes Amit Singh, it doesn’t leave a good impression.

  • Nova Watcher says:

    Re: the 10th

    Feder looks good this year – has done a good job fundraising and getting her name out there early. But not sure Frank can be beat just yet. There are quite a few other strong Dems out there that would make good candidates but are waiting. Will be interesting to see the % spread between Frank and Feder this year.

  • Nova Watcher says:

    Follow up:

    Sorry Loudoun Watcher – didn’t mean to piggy back on your name … my apologies … will start posting under another name.

    Nova Watcher … soon to be something else

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