Rep. Rick Boucher, the Democratic House member from Virginia’s 9th District, would seem to have a tough election on his hands given the current political atmosphere — and by all indications Republican H. Morgan Griffith is ready to give him that tough time. But with Griffith’s dismal funding prospects, poor early polling numbers and Boucher’s previously indisputable record of trouncing opponents, the Democrat still retains a strong advantage and the district is leaning in his favor.
Candidates for Virginia’s 9th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes numerous western Virginia counties, including Lee, Wise, Dickenson, Buchanan, Scott, Russell, Tazewell, Washington, Smythe, Bland, Giles, Grayson, Wythe, Pulaski, Montgomery, Carroll, Craig, Floyd, Patrick, portions of Allegheny, Roanoke, and Henry, and the city of Bristol. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Rick Boucher
Political experience: Boucher has been the representative for this district for the last 28 years. He ran unopposed in 2008. Before being elected to the House, he served for seven years in the Virginia state senate.
Professional experience: Rick Boucher practiced law on Wall Street in New York and in Virginia.
Key issues: The incumbent likes to display his understanding of agriculture on his website, suggesting that his efforts to encourage hair sheep purchases by food markets will help farmers diversify their farms, that his personal intervention prevented Farm Service Agency offices from closing in the district and that he went to bat for drought-affected residents with the Department of Agriculture to secure financial assistance.
Endorsements: Boucher is supported by the National Rifle Association and NARAL, a pro-choice political action committee. No other endorsements are listed on his website.
Chances of maintaining his seat: This may be the closest race to date for Boucher, or so pundits believe; he is vulnerable on his energy-bill vote, in which he claims he has secured coal concessions. There is also a backlash against Democrats in conservative districts. However, he’s pro-gun rights, reliably socially conservative and voted against health care reform. Earmarks aren’t necessarily a bad word in this district, which has appreciated his senior position in the Energy and Commerce Committee. He also retains an appreciable monetary lead over his opponent, commanding, as of early September, $2,010,478 in funding over Griffith’s $297,228, according to OpenSecrets.org. A July poll by SurveyUSA gave Boucher a 13-point lead over Griffith, 52 percent to 39 percent, as well.
Candidate: H. Morgan Griffith
Political experience: Griffith has been the house majority leader of the Virginia General Assembly since 2000.
Professional experience: Morgan Griffith is a partner at Albo and Oblon law offices.
Key issues: On health care reform, according to his website, Griffith has pledged to repeal the “government takeover” of health care and strip the budget of funding for the initiative. He believes better health care coverage can be achieved by allowing coverage to be purchased across state lines and by encouraging health savings accounts.
Endorsements: Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell and state senators William Wampler and Ralph Smith have endorsed Griffith.
Chances of unseating Rick Boucher: Griffith is in part hampered by accusations that he lives outside the 9th District; he does, but lives just outside the border and as he has pointed out redistricting due to post-Census requirements will likely expand the size of the district and place him within the district boundaries. But it’s the entrenched incumbent and large monetary disadvantage that has Griffith trailing in this race. He’s unlikely — as of early September — to take Boucher’s seat.
Key Differences between H. Morgan Griffith and Rick Boucher
Jobs and infrastructure: Boucher seems to feel he has this one down pat, as his issues section breaks out his approach into several sub-sections: tourism potential, technology parks, small-business incubators and developing infrastructure projects. Each section lists a number of very district-specific points. For example, his “Showcasing Southwest Virginia” program includes a section on luring high-tech jobs into the region. Griffith is a bit more general, but his basic idea is to reduce taxes for businesses that bring in jobs and reduce taxes overall.
Energy: Griffith says he has the advantage in energy, highlighting Boucher’s yes vote on “cap and trade.” He points out that the energy bill will gut the region’s coal industry and questions the validity of global warming, warning voters that even if America did take steps to counter the phenomenon, other countries won’t and will create major trade disadvantages for western Virginia. Though Boucher voted for the bill, he has noted that he secured concessions for the coal industry. He’s also reminded voters that a new dam at Big Cherry Reservoir in Big Stone Gap is the result of federal funding he brought home to the district.
Virginia’s 9th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Virginia 9th District consists of all of the far southwest portion of Virginia, bordering West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. A mountainous area, the district is rural and conservative, though it tends to favor Boucher locally.
2008 results: Boucher won with 97 percent of the vote and was unopposed.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 92.2 percent of the district is white, 4 percent black, 1.5 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian, and 0.2 percent American Indian and Alaskan Indian
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Virginia’s 9th District a rating of R+11, meaning that voters in general favor Republican candidates in this district.