Virginia Notebook

Democrats Get a Wake-Up Call That State's Red Hasn't Faded

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2007

RICHMOND - After they won control of the state Senate last month, Virginia Democrats were confident about their potential for future successes, even in Republican-leaning areas.

But it took only a month for reality to set in. In many parts of Virginia, voters continue to have strong affection for Republicans.

In last week's special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R) in the 1st Congressional District, Republican Del. Robert J. Wittman (R-Westmoreland) won 61 percent of the vote in his matchup against Democrat Philip Forgit.

The 1st District, which stretches from Tidewater to southern Prince William County, leans Republican, so a Wittman victory had been expected. Even so, he did better than most Republicans and Democrats had foreseen, given President Bush's low approval ratings.

Forgit drew support from liberal bloggers but failed to attract much help from national Democrats. In the end, he received 37 percent of the vote, faring worse among 1st District voters than Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) did against Bush in the 2004 presidential race.

Wittman's easy victory could spell trouble for Democrats, who are hoping to pick up one or two congressional seats in Northern Virginia next year.

In the 10th District, which stretches from Fairfax County to the upper Shenandoah Valley, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) is girding for a potentially tough reelection battle.

In the 11th District, which includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, Democrats are eyeing the seat of Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R).

Davis has not announced whether he plans to seek reelection. But even if he does, Democrats say he will be vulnerable because Fairfax County has been trending Democratic.

But the results in the 1st District should force Democrats to think long and hard about their prospects.

The 10th and 11th districts are less Republican than the 1st, according to the partisan index in the Almanac of American Politics, but both were drawn by a GOP-controlled General Assembly and are favorable to Republicans.

A growing population has meant that more Democrats and independents have moved into both districts in recent years. But Republicans still have an overall advantage, according to the index.

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