RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes became the first political casualty of a newly redrawn Virginia congressional map Tuesday, as the senior member of the House Armed Services Committee lost a sharp-elbowed primary against a young challenger who painted Forbes as a “cowardly” political opportunist.
Forbes was defeated by Scott Taylor, a 36-year-old state House delegate and former Navy SEAL, in the newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District. The district includes much of the defense-heavy Hampton Roads area, including the Norfolk Naval Base, the largest naval base in the world.
Forbes was set for an easy re-election bid in his home district, the 4th Congressional District, which he represented for 15 years until a panel of federal judges ordered the state’s congressional boundaries redrawn in a way that made the district far friendlier to Democrats.
Rather than seek re-election in his home district, Forbes opted to run in the neighboring 2nd District after incumbent Rep. Scott Rigell announced his retirement.
But the move opened Forbes up to fierce criticism from Taylor, who called Forbes a political opportunist who was acting “cowardly” by running in a supposedly easier district.
Taylor cast himself as a Washington outsider and said Tuesday that his most effective campaign message was that he would who would help fix a “broken” political system if elected.
“Washington is broken and we need a fresh start,” Taylor said.
By contrast, Forbes played up his seniority on House budget matters, particularly on defense spending. He also enjoyed a large advantage in campaign spending.
Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University, said Forbes picked the wrong year to run as a Washington insider in a district where presumptive GOP president nominee Donald Trump had a strong performance during a March primary. Add in the fact that Forbes doesn’t live in the district, and it was a recipe for a loss, Kidd said.
“Randy Forbes is the ultimate outsider running as the ultimate insider in a year when the insiders are out,” Kidd said.
Taylor is set to face Democrat Shaun Brown, who said she’s hoping to be the first female African-American from Virginia to serve in the House.
Though Virginia is a swing state where Democrats do well in statewide elections, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the House eight to three. Democrats challenged the congressional boundaries, and federal judges ruled that lawmakers in 2012 illegally packed black voters into the 3rd Congressional District, represented by Democrat Bobby Scott, to make surrounding districts safer for GOP incumbents. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new map in May.
The most noteworthy outcome of the new Virginia map was to make the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Richmond to the Hampton Road area and is currently held by Forbes, much more friendly to Democrats by significantly increasing the number of African-American voters.
“The injury is so severe that it forced him out of his district,” Forbes’ lawyer, Michael Carvin, argued unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court.
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