Watkins Abbitt to retire Jan 2012

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    Watkins Abbitt, followed in his father’s footsteps and has been elected to the Virginia General Assembly 13 times in the 59th district.  He first ran as a Democrat, but during redistricting in 2000, he chose to leave the Democratic party to avoid being challenged by Republicans.  Abbitt announced his retirement Tuesday.

    This article in WaPo details Abbitt’s career in Virginia politics.

    Wonder who will be vying for this position?  Is there a chance for a Dem to take this seat?  In the 2010 Congressional elections, Perriello won in the Porters, Country Green and Red Hill Precincts of Albemarle County by 862 votes, as well as in Buckingham County by 264 votes.  In the redrawn 59th, only part of Nelson County remains, but Perriello won by 383 votes in those remaining precincts and his loss in the Lovingston precinct was by only 12 votes.  Perriello lost by 1800 votes to Hurt in Appomattox County, and 3,300 votes in the Campbell County precincts which are now in the 59th.  Is there the possibility that a Campbell County Democrat could change the dynamics in the 59th, moving Campbell County voters to his or her side and make this a race in the 59th?

    • cvllelaw

      When they drew the lines for the 59th, they cut Nelson County essentially in half.  Nelson is the jurisdiction in the 59th with the strongest Democratic Party (I don’t count Albemarle here because the portion of Albemarle that was included in the 59th was a fairly small part of Albemarle County), and Nelson was also the home of the strongest candidates against Abbitt over the past decade.  Splitting Nelson County in this way not only makes the District more Republican on a performance index, but also leaves it with no strong Democratic organization.

    • FreeDem

      According to VPAP, McDonnell’s performance in the 75th went from 60.1% under the ole lines to 67.4% under the new lines.

      VPAP has the new lines as favoring McCain 58% to Obama’s 41% in the 2008 election. My estimate for the district under the old lines would have it at essentially 50%-50% between McCain and Obama, depending on how you figure out allocation of the absentee ballots for the Albemarle, Fluvanna, and Prince Edward precincts.

      Perriello ran a bit ahead of Obama, winning the old district in 2008 51% to 49%. He ran a bit behind his 2008 performance in 2010, under the old lines, but still won it by 51% to 49%. Under the new lines the election was about 43% to 57%.

      So a 7% change from 09 numbers, a 8% change from Perriello’s 08/10 numbers, and a 9% change in Obama’s numbers. If we’re lucky we might have a strong ticket in 2013 that would at least get closer to Obama/Perriello performance in the district instead of Deeds’ lack of performance. But that’s still a tough hill to climb.

      Based on 2010 numbers around 38% of the voters will be in Campbell, 14% in Albemarle, 21% Appomattox, 18% Buckingham, and 10% Nelson. The gerrymandering looks pretty effective. Around a quarter of the district is from the Democratic-leaning Albemarle-Nelson area that would be the most likely area for any Democratic candidate to emerge from. Another 18% in Buckingham leans Democratic but is more rural and has a higher minority population. Turnout will lag here unless there’s a strong campaign that’s really mobilizing voters (Perriello, Obama). And so that leaves the remaining 60% of Campbell-Appomattox, heavily Republican, running the show. Unless there’s a very clear candidate from Appomattox I suspect the new Republican delegate will come from Campbell County.

      The problem with recruiting a Democrat from Campbell County is that 1- There are no Democrats in Campbell County and 2- Even if you get a candidate unless they are really impressive the Democrats from Nelson and Albemarle may still want to back one of their own.