Home 2012 races Redistricting leads to shakeups in Central Virginia Congressional Races

Redistricting leads to shakeups in Central Virginia Congressional Races

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The recent dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the GOP-led redistricting of Virginia’s congressional seats has Democrats in Central Virginia scrambling to adjust their campaigns to the new boundaries.  

In the 7th District, candidates who had been courting Democratic Committees in Page, Rappahannock, and Madison Counties are shifting their attention eastwards to parts of Spotsylvania and New Kent Counties as the first three counties named were dropped from the 7th CD and all or a portion of the other two were added.  In terms of party affiliation and performance there seems to be little difference between the old and new 7th, but there are a few voters in the new 7th that don’t know Eric Cantor except through his recent high profile obstructionism, and that could work to the benefit of the Democratic challenger.

The situation in the neighboring 5th Congressional District may soon become complicated because of some opportunistic forum shopping by Northern Virginia Democrat John Douglass.  A retired brigadier general turned lobbyist, Douglass had been conducting a vigorous campaign in the 10th Congressional District to challenge Republican incumbent Frank Wolf.  Then one of Douglass’ homes was redistricted into the 5th Congressional District and Douglass now seems to be mulling a switch to the 5th.  Douglass might be afraid of taking on a veteran incumbent like Frank Wolf, seeing the 5th’s current incumbent, freshman Robert Hurt, as an easier target.

There’s just one small problem: the 5th already has a presumptive Democratic candidate–Peyton Williams.  Williams has several advantages in the contest for the Democratic nod in the 5th: a more central location in the district, more 5th district “cred,” a head start working on the ground, and Douglass’ appearance as a carpetbagger–albeit an unintentional one–and a beltway insider.  A Washington, DC defense lobbyist might be a tough sell for folks in towns like Danville and South Boston at the southern edge of the new 5th.  Williams is from Charlottesville, a key city in the 5th.  Williams has had years to build relationships with Democrats across the 5th while Douglass is scrambling to reach out to people he has never met.

Douglass would be walking away from volunteers in the 10th who have invested their time in the hopes Douglass would topple Frank Wolf.  Then there’s the money: Douglass has been fundraising heavily in the understanding that he would be running against Frank Wolf.  If he abruptly changes to the 5th, wouldn’t Douglass be under some kind of a moral obligation to return donor money that was meant to defeat Frank Wolf? Douglass’ departure from the 10th with that money could leave hard feelings and the eventual Democratic challenger in the 10th underfunded.

Douglass would be an outsider in the 5th and would have a hard time unseating Hurt, while his departure from the 10th decreases Democratic hopes in that district as well. It would also be better for Kaine and Obama if Douglass were to stay in the 10th to give Wolf a strong challenge.  If there isn’t a credible candidate in the 10th, it could decrease voter turnout.  

It isn’t entirely clear to me why Douglass would give up the nomination for the 10th, which he is all but assured of, in order to enter the contest in the 5th, where he would be forced to run a primary or caucus against the local favorite Peyton Williams. But the writing seems to be on the wall.  Douglass’ website is down, and looks like it is undergoing a rebuild to transform it from a 10th CD site to a 5th CD site.  An announcement from Douglass could be imminent.

  • NotJohnSMosby

    He will live in the 5th after redistricting is done.  

  • aznew

    but I’m not so sure I would call Williams a “presumptive Democratic candidate” or “local favorite.”

    Also, my understanding is that Douglass moved to the 5th because his house was redistricted here, not out of any particular political strategy.

    Frankly, neither of these guys is particularly well known, and if they don’t get on the stick and start spending 12 hours a day, 7 days a week driving through Southside and meeting voters one-by-one, neither of them stand a chance against Hurt.

    Even with that, they are probably out of time, given the size of the district, its rural character, and its natural Republican tendencies, coupled with a basically gaffe-free performance from Hurt in his first term.

  • MrChris

    a bit disconcerting.  As a resident of the 5th, I don’t think either of these candidates has lived in the 5th for very long.  I’ve been told Mr. Williams has only been in Charlottesville for a year or so…not offering much more “5th District Cred.” Also understand Douglass’ farm in Fauquier was redistricted out of the 10th and into the 5th.  Douglass can’t be blamed for his home being redistricted. If he lives in Alexandria, is Alexandria in the 10th, because it is not in the 5th?  I guess he could be like Morgan Griffith and not live in the district at all and still run.  Post just seems to me to be one-sided, as if it is being written by a Williams supporter.  That’s okay, but not sure we have all the info.

  • glennbear

    I do not know enough about either of these men but I sincerely hope decisions are made for the good of the 5th. After experiencing true representation with Tom Perriello the total waste that Hurt is has become even more evident. He was recently approached about the Federal prison system possibly taking over a recently vacated state prison in Southside. His response was the usual GOP blather about the deficit and in practically the same breath spoke of a ICE facility in the area run under private contract. This is soooooooo typical, the deficit is a problem unless Federal dollars are being given to private contractors with thoughts of future profit driven costs not part of the equation but campaign contributions payback are. This motivation was the same for his backing of the “farm dust bill” which was nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to shield manufacturers from EPA regulations.  

  • FreeDem

    This is a hack job and a below the belt attack against a strong Democratic candidate, John Douglass. Douglass is a strong candidate, regardless of where he runs. The people who donated to his campaign believe in him and want to see him in the House of Representatives. It’s a shame that you act as if he has defrauded them by switching districts. I share your frustrations about the outcome of redistricting but we shouldn’t attack him for simply deciding to run in the district he lives in.

    Carpetbagger? Beltway insider? Do you know anything about Douglass?

    I’m sorry if you are a Williams supporter, but you demonstrate a lack of knowledge about winning the 5th District. Charlottesville is not key, unless you mean key to the Democratic nomination. The election will be won in the more rural and exurban suburbs around Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke, areas where Douglass’s life, values, and background will play very strongly. The “central location” of Charlottesville means nothing when the average day of someone in Fauquier County is probably far more comparable to someone in Campbell or Franklin than someone in Charlottesville.

    More importantly, Williams is not the local favorite, there are strong concerns that he is not a viable candidate and cannot put in the work necessary to put up a respectable showing, let alone hold Hurt accountable. I say welcome Douglass to the race and let the best man win.

  • pontoon

    Dem Candidates in the 5th don’t run campaigns resembling the  4 current Republican Presidential nominees. In my opinion, they should run on their ideas and records.

    I can understand why Dems in the 10th would be disappointed, but they can thank Republican redistricting for losing their Dem candidate

  • Bumble Bee

    I live in the 5th.  I am sick of the representation given the 5th by Robert Hurt.  I have personally met both of the democratic candidates.  They both seem to be good men and a much better choice for Congress than the “empty suit” we now have. I will watch the campaigns of both men and see who emerges as the strongest candidate, then I will work for him.  The defeat of Robert Hurt is the mission and the objective and that is the only thing that counts.  The carpetbagger label is a distraction and will only influence those who wouldn’t vote for a democrat anyway.  

  • Dear Lowell,

    In the last several days we’ve met with hundreds of Democrats talking with voters throughout the 5th District – there’s a groundswell of support for electing another Democrat to Congress.

    After these wonderful conversations, I’ve officially reached a big decision about the future of my candidacy. I prepared a special video message for you with this big news. Check it out>>>

    One thing is clear- I will never stop working to help Virginia families.  They have been hurt for far too long.  Thank you for standing with us now and throughout these next few months.

    Thanks to you, the momentum is on our side.

    John