The 24th district was the homebase of Vance Wilkins as he climbed from Minority Leader to the first Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates in over 100 years. After taking a 52-47-1 majority in 1999, Wilkins used the redistricting process to destroy the Democratic Party in the House- taking the GOP to a 64-34-2 majority after the 2001 elections. But within a year he was involved in a sexual harassment scandal and forced to resign by his own caucus. Ben Cline- then an aide for Congressman Bob Goodlatte was elected in the special election to replace Wilkins. Since then Cline has been contested by Democrats in both Governor election cycles (2005 and 2009) but not contested in the any of his midterm elections (2003, 2007, 2011), never falling below 60% of the vote.
House District #24 (map here)
29.0% of the vote in Amherst County
28.8% of the vote in Rockbridge County
21.2% of the vote in Augusta County
7.6% of the vote in Lexington City
7.2% of the vote in Buena Vista City
6.3% of the vote in Bath County
2012 Major Party Election Results
Mitt Romney 21,567 (62.2%)
Barack Obama 13,104 (37.8%)
George Allen 21,897 (61.6%)
Tim Kaine 13,624 (38.4%)
Bob Goodlatte 23,269 (68.2%)
Andy Schmookler 10,855 (31.8%)
This seat has long been centered in Rockbridge County and the two Independent cities (Lexington and Buena Vista) surrounded by Rockbridge. All three of those localities continue to be united in the 24th district under the new lines. Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by a 5,898-4,088 (59.1%) vote in Rockbridge County. In Buena Vista, Romney also won by a 1,564-919 (63.0%) vote. But in Lexington- home of Washington and Lee as well as VMI- Barack Obama won a 1,486-1,146 (56.5%) victory. After redistricting the district now goes in three different directions out of Rockbridge- west into the Alleghany Highlands to grab all of Bath County (home of Creigh Deeds), north into some precincts in strongly Republican Augusta County, and east into Amherst County where it takes in a majority of that county. In Bath, Mitt Romney won a 1,274-894 (58.8%) vote over Obama. In Augusta County- which is split between three Republican Delegates to give each some margin- Romney won a 5,414-1,946 (73.6%) vote in these precincts. Finally in Amherst, Romney won by a 6,291-3,771 (62.5%) margin over Obama.
In the Senate race the big Republican counties all gave George Allen very similar victories over Tim Kaine as Romney won over Obama upballot. Rockbridge voted 6,063-4,195 (59.1%) for Allen, exactly the same 59.1% Romney won there. In Augusta, Allen won a 5,491-2,071 (72.6%) victory, or 1.0% better for Kaine than Obama got there. In Amherst the results were 6,389-3,931 (61.9%) for Allen, or 0.6% better for Kaine than Obama there. The smaller independent cities both gave Kaine a little more crossover. In Buena Vista, Allen won 1,478-964 (60.5%) or a 2.5% improvement for Kaine over Obama's numbers. In Lexington, Kaine won 1,573-1,102 (58.8%), a 2.3% improvement over Obama. But showing once again that politics in the Alleghany Highlands can be different- Allen won a 1,374-890 (60.7%) vote in Bath County, a 1.9% improvement for Allen over Romney's vote there.
The entire 24th House district sits within the 6th Congressional district represented by Bob Goodlatte, and he led the GOP ticket in every locality here. In Rockbridge the tally was 6,572-3,384 (66.0%) for Goodlatte over Andy Schmookler- or a 6.9% improvement for Goodlatte over Romney. In Augusta, Goodlatte won by a 5,571-1,724 (76.4%) vote, a 2.8% improvement over Romney. In Amherst, the vote was 6,574-3,116 (67.8%) for Goodlatte, or 5.3% better than Romney. Heading up into Bath County, and Goodlatte wins 1,574-589 (72.8%), a 14.0% crossover over Romney. In Buena Vista, Goodlatte won 1,749-691 (71.7%), which was an 8.7% crossover. Finally in Lexington, Schmookler got a victory- 1,351-1,229 (52.4%), but that was still a 4.1% crossover for Goodlatte over Romney.
This could be an interesting open seat race if Ben Cline ever decided to move up or out. Bath County has elected many Democrats to the General Assembly- and the cities here have voted for Democratic statewide candidates in the past. Rockbridge County just gave Creigh Deeds 63.3% of the vote in 2011 in a lightly contested race for the State Senate- noteworthy because they only gave Deeds 41.9% of the vote when he ran for Governor. Some of that is driven by name ID, and quality of the opponent, but it also serves as a great example of how local politics here is much less partisan than these statewide results might indicate. Deeds lost this county by 16.2% for Governor, but won it for State Senate just two years later by 26.6%- a swing of 42.8% of the vote.
As interesting as this district is, Ben Cline will be very hard to unseat as an incumbent. Besides including some strongly Republican base precincts in Augusta- the district is stretched over a large land area- with many different interests- and while it would be possible for a good candidate to do well in any of the individual regions against Cline, it would be very hard to find someone who could appeal across all of these distinct counties and cities. This type of district is exactly what Republicans intended to create in redistricting because it solidifies the incumbent from a potential challenger. Ben Cline's views are a little more conservative then this districts independent streak would seek ideally, but Cline hasn't done anything yet that would endanger his hold on it for the rest of the decade if he so chooses to stay.
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 #7- Nick Rush (Kansas)
House District #8- Greg Habeeb (Arkansas)
House District #9- Charles Poindexter (West Virginia)
House District #10- Randy Minchew (North Carolina)
House District #11- Onzlee Ware (Rhode Island)
House District #12- Joseph Yost (Virginia)
House District #13- Bob Marshall (New Mexico)
House District #14- Danny Marshall (North Carolina)
House District #16- Don Merricks (Mississippi)
House District #17- Chris Head (Tennessee)
House District #19- Lacey Putney (West Virginia)
House District #22- Kathy Byron (Kentucky)
House District #23- Scott Garrett (Idaho)
House District #28- Bill Howell (Florida)
House District #30- Ed Scott (Montana)
House District #32- Tag Greason (New Hampshire)
House District #33- Joe May (Alaska)
House District #50- Jackson Miller (Michigan)
House District #51- Rich Anderson (Ohio)
House District #52- Luke Torian (Hawaii)
House District #60- James Edmunds (North Carolina)
House District #87- David Ramadan (Washington)