House District #4 (map here)
36.0% of the vote in Washington County
29.7% of the vote in Russell County
20.1% of the vote in Dickenson County
14.2% of the vote in Wise County
2012 Major Party Election Results
Mitt Romney 23,192 (69.1%)
Barack Obama 10,379 (30.9%)
George Allen 22,057 (65.5%)
Tim Kaine 11,619 (34.5%)
Morgan Griffith 19,835 (59.2%)
Anthony Flaccavento 13,665 (40.8%)
The 4th district has always been based in Washington County and the City of Bristol- but the last redistricting changed what this district looked like. In order to eliminate Bud Phillips in his mountain district, the 1st, 3rd and 4th had to take in his precincts. That pulled the 4th out of Bristol and up into places like Russell and Dickenson. Those areas are more Democratic than the old 4th- about 8% more than the previous 4th district precincts they replaced. That made this district more competitive. To put this change into context, the Washington County precincts are like the Utah districts we covered earlier this week, while Dickenson precincts vote more like West Virginia.
You can see this split on the national level, even while Obama gets hammered everywhere in this district. Washington County portions of this district voted for Romney 70.8-29.2, while Dickenson voted 63.3-36.7. In the Senate race, Washington County voted 67.7-32.3, while Dickenson voted 59.5-40.5. Finally in the Congressional race between Morgan Griffith and Anthony Flaccavento, Washington County precincts in this district voted 62.7-37.3, while Dickenson voted 52.4-47.6.
These numbers helped drive Anthony Flaccavento above 40% of the vote in the Congressional race- the only district in far southwest where he did that.
All that says this could be a surprisingly competitive race at the House of Delegates level if the seat opened up. In fact, when State Senator Phil Puckett ran for re-election last year he didn't have Washington County in his district- but won the portions of Russell, Dickenson and Wise that are included in this district- and with some decent margin.
In order for Democrats to contest this seat, they will need a real candidate, and this may be the other mistake the GOP made in how they drew this district. While the Washington County/Bristol area has had much of its Democratic infrastructure fade away, Russell County is still home to a thriving local Democratic machine. Besides State Senator Puckett, residents of this district include Russell County Chairman Jon Bowerbank, who considered a run for Lt. Governor in 2009 and Russell Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Patton along with Russell County Supervisor Joe Puckett (son of Phil) who are barely in their 30's and recently elected. Any of those three could make a very good race for this seat- in fact Patton is from Dickenson. My guess is that Bowerbank has his sights set higher, and Patton wouldn't want to give up his six figure job as Commonwealth's Attorney. That leaves Joe Puckett to face the GOP nominee if Democrats can recruit him to run.
Who would be the Republican candidate for this open seat? Hard to predict- Johnson has kept it for so long that there could be a lot of pent up demand to run. I expect to see a crowded field on the GOP side, and without knowing what nomination process they might use, it is totally unpredictable.
Turnout here will be much higher than when Phil Puckett won many of these precincts in 2011- and this district will certainly vote for Ken Cuccinelli over Terry McAuliffe in a landslide. Can Democrats overcome that downballot? History says no, but I see some signs here that this district could be very unique in its opportunity for the Democrats to elect a new House member anywhere west of Roanoke. Watch out for one of the most interesting elections of 2013 to break out in the 4th district.
Previous Districts Covered
House District #1- Terry Kilgore (Utah)
House District #2- Mark Dudenhefer (Delaware)
House District #3- Will Morefield (Utah)
House District #13- Bob Marshall (New Mexico)
House District #28- Bill Howell (Florida)
House District #50- Jackson Miller (Michigan)
House District #51- Rich Anderson (Ohio)
House District #52- Luke Torian (Hawaii)