Virginia's US House races offer little drama


Associated Press

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Oct 27 at 11:06 AM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Anyone looking for election-day drama in Virginia would be well advised to focus on the presidential and U.S. Senate races, because they won't find any in the 11 House of Representatives contests.

Unlike the past two congressional elections, this one appears highly unlikely to change Virginia's congressional delegation. Republicans hold an 8-3 advantage over Democrats, and all incumbents are strongly favored to win re-election in districts that were redrawn to their advantage after the 2010 census.

"All the districts became more partisan," said University of Richmond political analyst Dan Palazzolo. "By and large, it will be an incumbency year."

Four years ago, Democrats rode Barack Obama's coattails to take three congressional seats from Republicans and gain a one-seat edge in Virginia's delegation. The pendulum swung the other way in the 2010 midterm election, when GOP challengers regained two of those seats and upset longtime Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher in the 9th District.

"What's unique about Virginia this year is it's not volatile," Palazzolo said, noting that even the districts that flipped in the last two elections are now solid for the incumbents.

The creation of noncompetitive districts and the absence of the kind of political tide that swept Obama to the presidency four years ago has produced a field of largely obscure and inexperienced congressional challengers in Virginia. Palazzolo said the only race with even a remote chance of being close is in the Hampton Roads 2nd District, where Democrat Paul O. Hirschbiel Jr. is running a well-financed campaign against first-term U.S. Rep. E. Scott Rigell.

Hirschbiel, a former venture capitalist, is a pro-business protege of centrist Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner, while Rigell has close ties to GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell. They are running in a district that backed both Warner and McDonnell in their most recent elections, and split about evenly between Obama and Republican John McCain in 2008.

Rigell, a wealthy Virginia Beach car dealer, got 53 percent of the vote two years ago to defeat one-term Democrat Glenn Nye, one of the beneficiaries of the Obama groundswell in 2008.

The slate of challengers is notable not only for its lack of political experience — only one has held political office — but also for its abundance of military service. Six challengers had substantial military careers before moving on to other pursuits.

The race in central Virginia's 7th District is closely watched solely because of the prominence of the incumbent: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He is being challenged by Democrat Wayne Powell, a lawyer and retired Army colonel who has portrayed Cantor as beholden to corporate interests and unwilling to work across party lines to solve the nation's economic problems.

Powell has run a spirited campaign full of bombast and sharp rhetoric, but it's unlikely to have much effect in one of Virginia's most solidly Republican districts.

"That's a fool's errand in terms of winning it," Palazzolo said of the race against Cantor.

In other races:

— Rep. Robert J. "Rob" Wittman, R-1st, is challenged by Democrat Adam M. Cook, a lawyer and Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan.

— Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-3rd, faces another Air Force veteran, Republican Dean J. Longo, in the state's only black-majority congressional district.

— Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-4th, is opposed by Democrat Ella P. Ward, a Chesapeake City Council member and retired teacher.

— Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, faces Democrat John Wade Douglass, a retired Air Force brigadier general.

— Rep. Robert W. "Bob" Goodlatte, R-6th, is challenged by Democrat Andy B. Schmookler, an author, consultant and college professor.

— Rep. James P. "Jim" Moran Jr., D-8th, faces a rematch against Republican J. Patrick Murray, an Army veteran whom he defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in 2010.

— Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-9th, is opposed by Democrat Anthony J. Flaccavento, who is known for his efforts to develop sustainable, local food production.

— Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-10th, is challenged by Democrat Kristin Cabral, a federal prosecutor.

— Rep. Gerald E. "Gerry" Connolly, D-11th, faces Republican Chris S. Perkins, a retired Army officer and Green Beret now working as a national security consultant.