Forbes Bounced in Virginia GOP Primary

Congressman loses in an upset to state delegate, Scott Taylor

Virginia Rep. J. Randy Forbes was criticized by his GOP primary rival for carpetbagging into the state's 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Virginia Rep. J. Randy Forbes was criticized by his GOP primary rival for carpetbagging into the state's 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 14, 2016 at 8:04pm

In an upset, J. Randy Forbes became the second Republican incumbent in a week to lose a primary Tuesday night.

The Virginia Republican lost the nomination in Virginia’s 2nd District to state Del. Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach.  

Taylor carried 53 percent of the vote to Forbes’ 41 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.  

North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers lost her primary in the state’s redrawn 2nd District to fellow GOP Rep. George Holding last week.  

Forbes is the second GOP incumbent to lose, but he is not the incumbent in the district he was running in. He currently represents Virginia’s 4th District.  

After redistricting made that district a safe Democratic seat, he decided to run in the neighboring 2nd District  whose current GOP Rep. Scott Rigell is retiring  at the end of this Congress.  

Democrats did not recruit a candidate in this safe Republican seat, so Taylor is likely the next GOP member of Congress from Virginia.  


Democrats’ Missed Opportunity in Virginia


Rigell had backed Forbes, who also enjoyed the support of a number of local Republicans and outside conservative groups.  

As chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Forbes argued that that he should be sent back to Congress because seniority is important to a military-heavy state like Virginia.  

But Taylor, a former Navy SEAL and Iraq War veteran, represents the population center of the 2nd District.  

“Virginia Beach speaks and the rest of the district has to listen,” said one Republican with knowledge of the district.  


Judges Select New Virginia Congressional Map


Whereas Ellmers faced a tough primary in North Carolina even before redistricting, Forbes looks like a victim of redistricting .  

“Looks like it ended up being a regional campaign,” the Republican in the district said.


Forbes doesn’t currently represent any of the new 2nd District, and he still lives in the 4th District. Taylor hit Forbes for carpetbagging into his district.  

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

When read a statement about Forbes running for the 2nd District for political reasons, 60 percent of voters said they’d be “much less” or “somewhat less” likely to vote for him.  


Internal Poll: Virginia District-Switcher Faces Competitive Primary


But as the incumbent, Forbes had been favored to win. The 2nd and 4th Districts share the Hampton Roads media market, so Forbes was a familiar face to voters in the 2nd District.  

And he’s had plenty of money to go on the air. Forbes spent $711,000 during the pre-primary reporting period that ended on May 25. Taylor spent $91,000 during the same time period.  

Forbes isn’t the only Republican who’s suffered from redistricting.  

Another GOP incumbent, North Carolina’s Robert Pittenger, came perilously close to losing his primary last week in a district that is 60 percent new to him because of redistricting. Pittenger currently leads by about 140 votes, but a recount is expected.  

Pennsylvania Democrat Chaka Fattah became the first incumbent of the year to lose a primary in April.  

Elsewhere in Virginia on Tuesday night, state Sen. Donald McEachin easily won the Democratic nod in the new 4th District — a safe Democratic seat.  

He’s likely to be the fourth Democrat and second black member in the Virginia delegation in the House.  

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, who represents the 6th District, cruised to victory over his GOP primary opponent.  

Contact Pathé at

 and follow her on Twitter at 



Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.