Incumbents Switch Districts to Win Primaries

Virginia's Randy Forbes is running in neighboring district in Tuesday primary

J. Randy Forbes represents and lives in the 4th District but is running to represent the 2nd. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
J. Randy Forbes represents and lives in the 4th District but is running to represent the 2nd. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted June 13, 2016 at 5:00am

Virginia Republicans go to the polls to pick a new nominee in the 2nd District on Tuesday.  

One of the candidates isn’t new to Congress. He’s represented a neighboring district for eight terms. And that’s where he still lives.  

Rep. J. Randy Forbes, who currently represents the 4th District, is vying for the nomination in the neighboring 2nd District. Rep. Scott Rigell is retiring at the end of this Congress.  

If Forbes wins, he’ll be the second GOP incumbent in a week to win the nomination in a different district from the one he currently represents.  

North Carolina Rep. George Holding, who currently represents the state’s 13th District, defeated fellow Rep. Renee Ellmers for the nomination in the state’s newly redrawn 2nd District last week.  

In both North Carolina and Virginia, redistricting motivated the district-switching.  

After court-mandated redistricting moved his current district across the state, Holding decided to run in the district where most of constituents now live, even though he doesn’t live there.  

Unfortunately for Ellmers, that was also her district.  

In Virginia, redistricting not only changed the geographical boundaries of the state’s congressional districts, but it also altered the partisan make-up of the districts enough to give Democrats another safe seat.  

The new Virginia map made Forbes’ 4th District more Democratic, imperiling his chances of winning re-election if he stayed put.  

Forbes shifted over to the open 2nd District . Democrats failed to recruit a candidate here, and it’s now a Safe Republican seat .  

Forbes’ main  competition in the June 14 primary is Scott Taylor, a state delegate, former Navy SEAL and Iraq War veteran who entered the race soon after Rigell announced he would not seek re-election in January.  

An early May poll from the Taylor campaign found Taylor trailing Forbes, but within the margin of error.  

As a sitting member of Congress, Forbes has been expected to have the edge in this primary. He has the on-the-ground organization and has had a consistent financial advantage over Taylor.  

He spent $711,000 during the pre-primary reporting period that ended on May 25. Taylor spent $91,000 during the same time period.  

“No amount of money he spends will change the fact that he is a carpetbagging Congressman,” Taylor wrote on his Facebook page  last week.  

Taylor has argued that’s the one from the district since Forbes doesn’t even live in the 4th District.  

Taylor’s House of Delegates seat is in the heart of Virginia Beach, which is the biggest population center of the district.  

“Virginia Beach is the big Kahuna, and if it goes for Taylor, it will be Taylor,” said one GOP operative from the state.  

Defending his decision to switch districts, Forbes points to his chairmanship of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.  

Forbes has argued that he should be sent back to Congress because seniority is important to a military-heavy state like Virginia.  

Unlike Holding’s new district, which overlaps with territory he currently represents, there’s no overlap between the district Forbes currently represents and the district he’s running for.  

But the 2nd and 4th Districts share the Hampton Roads media market, so Forbes is a familiar face to voters in the 2nd District.  

Forbes and Holding aren’t the only incumbents who have switched districts or moved around this year to ensure they can return to Congress.  

Florida’s Rep. Daniel Webster made a similar calculus as Forbes earlier this year.  

Facing re-election in a district that redistricting made much more Democratic, Webster decided to run in the safe Republican 11th District .  

That district is vacant because GOP Rep. Richard Nugent is not seeking re-election . The primary is in August.  

And it’s not just Republicans who move around. North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat, was drawn out of her district when the General Assembly approved the state’s new congressional map.  

Adams didn’t switch districts, but she did move her residence to have a better chance of winning her party’s nomination in the new 12th District.  

She moved from Greensboro to Charlotte, which is in the new 12th district. She won her primary Tuesday night and will almost surely return to Washington, DC, as the member from this safe Democratic district.  

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