Since the early-50’s only four men have represented the sprawling “Fightin’ Ninth” District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. One of them – Morgan Griffith – wants to keep it that way in Tuesday’s election, while Anthony Flaccavento tries for a second time to add his name to that short list.
The Ninth – which runs from the tip of Virginia past Bristol, to a portion of Alleghany County to the north and to Martinsville in the East – has swung back and forth from Republican to Democrat control ever since William C. Wampler Sr. first won election to a single term in 1953.
Wampler would hold onto the district until the election of 1982 when an upstart lawyer from Abingdon – Rick Boucher – upset the incumbent Wampler by a mere 1,218 votes out of over 150,000 cast districtwide.
Boucher would go on to hold the seat for 28 years until he was defeated in the 2010 election by Griffith. The Salem lawyer and member of the Virginia House of Delegates won by 4.8 percent of the vote that year.
In 2012, Flaccavento made his first bid for Congress. A farmer and consulting firm owner from Abingdon, Flaccavento lost in his effort to knock Griffith out early. The race wasn’t close with Griffith winning with 61 percent of the vote – 184,882 to Flaccavento’s 116,400.
Griffith has won easily every two years since with margins of victory of 72 percent and 69 percent.
Currently Republicans hold a 235-193 majority in the House with seven seats vacant. Observers such as the non-profit, non-partisan Ballotpedia organization have identified 79 House “battleground” races – 70 held by Repubicans and nine by Democrats. To win a majority, Ballotpedia figures Democrats need to have a net gain of 23 Republican seats.
According to historical analysis, Democrats are well-positioned to gain seats, according to Ballotpedia.
From 1918 to 2016, the president’s party lost an average of 29 seats in midterm elections. In what Ballotpedia termed “wave elections,” the president’s party lost 48 seats.
Only twice since 1918 has the newly elected president actually gained seats in the mid-term elections – in 1934 (Franklin Roosevelt) and in 2002 (George W. Bush).
Democratic leaders have for months been predicting a “blue wave” in next week’s election, however, some observers believe that wave may not materialize in light of recent news concerning the Supreme Court and immigration, and see Republicans holding control of the House.
While in this area at least, Democrats seem energized behind Flaccavento, Virginia’s Ninth District is not viewed – even by Democratic leaders – as one of those “battleground” races that might tip the balance of power in the House away from Republicans.
Given President Trump’s continued huge popularity in the district and past races in which Griffith won – including 2012 against Flaccavento – another Griffith win is expected.
But, the “Fightin’ Ninth” isn’t called that for nothing. Who knows, this could be another upset in the making.
Polls open Tuesday at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
In Pulaski County 22,099 people are registered to vote.
Registrar Kathy Webb says all polling places in the county’s 12 precincts remain the same as in the last election:
- Belspring (Belspring United Methodist Church)
- New River (Riverlawn Elementary)
- West Cloyd (NRV Fairgrounds)
- Draper (Draper Vol. Fire Dept.)
- South Pulaski (Central Gym)
- Newbern (Dublin Lions Club)
- Dublin (Dublin Lions Club)
- Hiwassee (Hiwassee Vol. Fire Dept.)
- Snowville (Snowville Elementary)
- Massie (Central Gym)
- Walker (NRV Fairgrounds)
- Robinson (Central Gym)
According to Webb, Pulaski County will again use its optical scan machines and paper ballots.
Also on next Tuesday’s ballot is the race for U.S. Senator and two Constitutional amendment questions.
Incumbent U.S. Senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine is seeking re-election to another six-year term. He is challenged by Republican Corey Stewart and Libertarian Matt Waters. Kaine is a heavy favorite for re-election.
There are two Constitutional questions:
1 – “Should a county, city, or town be authorized to provide a partial tax exemption for real property that is subject to recurrent flooding, if flooding resiliency improvements have been made on the property?” Yes or No
2 – “Shall the real property tax exemption for a primary residence that is currently provided to the surviving spouses of veterans who had a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be amended to allow the surviving spouse to move to a different primary residence and still claim the exemption?” Yes or No
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot