The 7th district- based for the last couple of decades in more Republican precincts of Montgomery County (Christiansburg, not Blacksburg) has been a swing seat in the General Assembly for a long time. This was one of the first areas in southwest Virginia to send a Republican legislator to Richmond- but in 1999 became the only district in Virginia to flip from Republican to Democratic while Governor Jim Gilmore was successfully taking the House of Delegates into GOP control for the first time. In that redistricting- Benny Keister who had won this seat for the Democrats had his district redrawn into what is now the 6th district- and this seat was made even more Republican. With the Blacksburg area combined into a seat that went all the way to Bath County, then-Delegate Jim Shuler found himself facing then-Delegate Creigh Deeds in the same district. Instead, Shuler moved across Montgomery into this district- but was defeated 52-48 by Dave Nutter for the open seat. When Deeds moved up a month later into the State Senate in a special election, Shuler moved back to the Blacksburg area and reclaimed the neighboring seat. Nutter- considered a moderate- held this seat with ease until 2007 when he was almost defeated by Peggy Frank in another 52-48 contest. When Frank ran in a rematch in 2009, downballot from Bob McDonnell's win for Governor, she was blown out by Nutter 60-40. After all that excitement here over the last two decades- when Nutter vacated this seat to run for the State Senate last year, Democrats allowed Nick Rush, a member of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors to win this district unopposed. In return for their kindness, Republicans also took the Democratic leaning seat that runs next door to this one.
House District #7 (map here)
46.3% of the vote in Montgomery County
32.9% of the vote in Pulaski County
20.7% of the vote in Floyd County
2012 Major Party Election Results
Mitt Romney 21,739 (60.8%)
Barack Obama 14,013 (39.2%)
George Allen 21,116 (58.4%)
Tim Kaine 15,038 (41.6%)
Morgan Griffith 21,783 (61.1%)
Anthony Flaccavento 13,877 (38.9%)
Redistricting made this district look like the 1990's version of this district that the GOP controlled until 1999. Large areas of Pulaski County are back from the 6th district. The big change from the 1990's version of this district is it now includes Floyd County- long part of the 9th district and combined with Franklin County. Even though this is the Republican leaning area of Montgomery County, the Montgomery precincts are the most Democratic in this district. Mitt Romney won these Montgomery precincts 9,513-7,056 (57.4%), while carrying the Pulaski and Floyd precincts by a larger percentages, 7,553-4,225 (64.2%) for Pulaski and 4,673-2,752 (63.1%) for Floyd.
Tim Kaine ran ahead of Barack Obama in each of these counties- in fact his margin over Obama was even consistent to every precinct. In Montgomery, Kaine fell to George Allen 9,146-7,515 (54.7%), a 2.7% bump from Obama. In Pulaski the vote was for Allen 7,419-4,555 (62.0%), a 2.2% improvement. Finally in Floyd, the vote was 4,551-2,968 (60.5%), a 2.6% crossover vote.
While Anthony Flaccavento ran well above the President and Kaine in far southwest Virginia, the middle areas of southwest Virginia began to show Kaine and Flaccavento running similar numbers against Allen and Morgan Griffith that were above Obama's. But as you move into the New River Valley in this district, Griffith begins holding numbers very similar to the Presidential race. Montgomery precincts in this district voted for Griffith 9,592-6,804 (58.5%), Pulaski voted 7,660-4,227 (64.4%) and Floyd voted for Griffith 4,531-2,846 (61.4%). With a few percent in every precinct voting Romney/Kaine/Griffith, you have to assume that those voters were trying to send a message to George Allen.
Is this district potentially competitive at the House of Delegates level? It appears so. When Floyd was in the 9th district in 2007 there was a competitive House race there between Eric Ferguson and Charles Poindexter both from Franklin County. Ferguson won Floyd in that race. Many of these Pulaski precincts were in the neighboring 6th district when Anne Crockett-Stark unseated Benny Keister in 2005 but these precincts voted for Keister who lives in this part of Pulaski by 10 points. As we noted above, the Montgomery County precincts here are more Democratic than the Pulaski or the Floyd precincts, so you could fairly assume they would vote Democratic for the right candidate as well.
But instead of making this a swing district once again that was contested, Democrats rolled over here and allowed Nick Rush to win his first term unopposed. That really speaks to the weakness in the party organization. This once proud swing district that was strongly contested at the local level by both parties is today a district where the Democrats can't field a candidate on the ballot.
We like to do more analysis of the incumbents in this series, but how do you analyze a guy who won with 100% of the vote? Is Nick Rush strong or weak? There's no data to say- but as long as he wins with 100%, I guess the answer is strong.
Previous Districts Covered
House District #1- Terry Kilgore (Utah)
House District #2- Mark Dudenhefer (Delaware)
House District #3- Will Morefield (Utah)
House District #4- Joe Johnson (Wyoming)
House District #5- Israel O'Quinn (Wyoming)
House District #6- Anne Crockett-Stark (Oklahoma)
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)