Virginia 8th District
More than 200 years ago, when George Washington trod the brick sidewalks of Alexandria on his way to market or court or church, it was the largest city in Northern Virginia, far larger than Georgetown, just up the Potomac River. The areas that are now Capitol Hill and downtown Washington, D.C., were hills above the river’s mud flats. But Washington became the national capital, and as it grew, Northern Virginia seemed left behind. In 1846, the District of Columbia retroceded its land south of the Potomac—now Alexandria and Arlington—to Virginia because it seemed obvious that the federal government would never need it, and it was 97 years before the first federal building was built on the Virginia side—the Pentagon. President Franklin Roosevelt wondered out loud what they would do with all that space after the war. When the Pentagon was built, Alexandria and the rural countryside of Northern Virginia were represented in Congress by Judge Howard W. Smith, a Harry Byrd Democrat and later the House Rules Committee chairman, who saw as his mission the maintenance of the standards of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee. Yet by the 1960s, the area was changing around him. New subdivision dwellers with white-collar jobs and lots of children wanted schools with good academic programs, not the segregated schoolhouses Judge Smith’s friends were willing to finance. The new generation wanted freeways, parks and recreation facilities. As Smith’s district was moved farther out into the countryside, two-party politics came to the suburbs. Now the onetime suburbs of Alexandria and Arlington are “edge cities,” as author Joel Garreau put it. Arlington County has the seventh highest median income of any county in the nation and has a greater share of people with college degrees than any other county in the nation. Giant office developments sprang up from rail yards in Crystal City and from used car lots up-river in Rosslyn. Commuters find roads jammed, and there are plans to widen Interstate 66, which was built with just four lanes.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 8th Congressional District of Virginia consists of all of Arlington County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. It takes in two sections of Fairfax County: a stretch of land from Tysons Corner west to Reston, and several areas south of Alexandria’s Old Town. It includes George Washington’s Mount Vernon, lower-income Groveton, suburban Springfield and the more rural areas around Fort Belvoir. The district now is solidly Democratic.