Virginia 7th District
In the center of Virginia, on a hill in downtown Richmond above the James River, is Thomas Jefferson’s Capitol, one of the first classical-style buildings in North America, chaste and simple in the Jefferson style. A mile or so west is Monument Avenue, Richmond’s grand 140-foot-wide boulevard, punctuated by circles, each with a statue of a Confederate hero—Robert E. Lee (62 feet tall, dedicated Memorial Day 1890), Jeb Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fountain Maury, “the Pathfinder of the Sea.” Richmond itself is a monument to Jefferson and to the Confederacy. Its metropolitan area is only the third largest in the state, but it still sets the tone for Virginia. It is home to many of the state’s great institutions—Dominion Resources, Main Street banks, big law firms, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond’s metro area has grown far past its city borders, covering almost all of suburban Henrico and Chesterfield counties and spreading into what was until recently countryside. For many years, Richmond was riven by racial differences. In the 1950s, Virginia’s leaders gathered in Richmond and called for massive resistance to desegregation. When Richmond elected its first black-majority City Council in the 1970s, the outgoing Council deeded the statue of Lee to the state for fear it would be torn down. Now Richmond has come to a better place. African-Americans have been a majority in the city for two decades now, and in 1989 Virginia elected a black governor, Douglas Wilder, who grew up on Church Hill in a segregated neighborhood overlooking the Capitol. In 2005, Wilder made a triumphant return as mayor, elected by a biracial majority. When he stepped down in January 2009, the Times-Dispatch wrote that he had “spent his term trying to deliver his vision for an office he helped create—a strong mayor under a new form of government.” A statue of Richmond-born African-American tennis champion Arthur Ashe has been added to Monument Avenue. Richmond has been thriving economically with banking, securities, and health care corporate offices and the Philip Morris headquarters. Politically, the city is solidly Democratic. Henrico, Chesterfield and the counties beyond are heavily Republican.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of Virginia includes some city precincts and most of the area surrounding Richmond. The black precincts in the city and Henrico County are mostly in the black-majority 3rd District. The 7th District extends past President James Madison’s home at Montpelier to fast-growing Spotsylvania and Culpeper counties and as far north as Rappahannock County and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like many other affluent and growing areas, some of these locales have been struggling with illegal immigration. The 7th is 17% African-American and 80% of its votes are cast in metro Richmond. This is one of the two most Republican districts in Virginia. George W. Bush twice won 61% of the vote here. In 2008, GOP presidential nominee John McCain beat Barack Obama 53%-46%. (However, Obama took the Henrico County suburbs by 679 votes of 116,000 cast.)