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2010 Congressional elections in Virginia

Virginia Republicans are still basking in the glow of one of the most sweeping statewide victories in the history of the commonwealth. In fact, it was the largest lopsided win for any party for governor since 1961. The GOP won the governor’s mansion — the first time they have done this since 1997 — and at the same time won both down ticket positions with easy wins for Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli. They also won a net gain in the House of Delegates of six seats. This completely reverses the seat-by-seat gains the Democrats have made during the past six years and once again gives the Republicans a whopping majority in the House. Right now the Republicans can count on more than 60 votes.

After years of taking it on the chin, Republicans are shifting their gaze to next year’s election. And justifiably they are optimistic. Remember, in Virginia, when it comes to electoral politics, we never have an off year, and in 2010 we will be in the middle of the Congressional elections. Usually, in Virginia politics, House of Representatives seats tend to turn over slowly. As the result, with few open seats and incumbents with safe districts, these campaigns can be a bit on the dull side. But that won’t be the case next year. In 2008, in what, remarkably enough, was a Democratic sweep, three U.S. House seats shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats. For the first time since 1994, the Democrats took a majority of the state’s Congressional delegation. This year, that means that three freshman Democratic incumbents are up for re-election. The Republicans, not surprisingly, are eager to take them on.
One of the most vulnerable seats is the 5th District in Southwest Virginia. Tom Perriello, in one of Election 2008’s biggest surprises, beat longtime Republican (he used to be a Democrat) Virgil Goode. The district, however, still “leans” Republican, and Perriello is on the list of endangered freshmen. The Republicans, if they can manage to keep the momentum of this year’s election up, would love to win this seat. They are hoping Perriello’s recent vote for the Health Bill might be a wedge issues for them.
The second Congressional District, which covers Hampton Roads, has always been competitive, and in 2008, after being held by Republican Thelma Drake, tilted to the Democrats. It’s a swing district which tends to be responsive to national trends, and arguably, much of the success of the Democratic incumbent, Glenn Nye will depend on how the Democrats and Obama are fairing nationally. Needless to say, the Republicans view this as a vulnerable seat.
Northern Virginia’s 11th District is held by freshman Democrat Jerry Connolly. Connolly won a clear victory in 2008, but it wasn’t a landslide. The seat used to be held by Republican Congressman Tom Davis. Davis was a moderate, conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues. The seat suited him. Connolly is more of an out and out liberal. Given his long history in electoral politics in the region, he is probably the strongest of all Virginia’s freshmen Congressmen. However, if the Republicans can find a strong candidate to run against him, he could have a fight on his hands.
One benefit of this year’s big win in Virginia is that prospective GOP candidates for Congress, both here in the Commonwealth and nationally, feel a bit more emboldened to try their luck in 2010. Until Bob McDonnell’s landslide victory, some in the Republican Party, justifiably, wondered if it was worth the effort to run. Images of the party’s drubbing in 2008 were fresh in their minds. However, the win in Virginia seems to have given the Republican Party some resurgent energy for 2010. Virginia’s Congressional races are likely to be a lot more lively than usual.
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