Virginia 9th District
As early as 1765, settlements were carved out of the great Valley of Virginia, which bends westward and south toward Tennessee and the Cumberland Gap. Most founders were of Scots-Irish lineage, and they moved to a mountainous area that developed almost apart from the rest of Virginia. The fiercely independent settlers were first farmers, later coal miners, as in West Virginia, which wasn’t a separate state until 1863. Politically, this virtually all-white area opposed slavery and was skeptical, if not hostile, to the Confederacy. Out of the crucible of struggle between secessionists and unionists, Southwest Virginia developed a robust two-party politics after the Civil War, with both parties resembling their national counterparts more closely than in the rest of Virginia. It is a long way from here to plantation country—the state’s extreme southwest corner is closer to the Mississippi River than to the Potomac River.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 9th Congressional District covers all of southwest Virginia west of Roanoke. Over the years, the district became known as the ‘‘Fighting Ninth,’’ because of its taste for raucous politics, which by and large were culturally conservative and economically populist. In recent decades, as development has moved down Interstate 81, it has become somewhat more like the rest of Virginia. With encouragement from state officials, businesses have created jobs at high-tech companies and telephone call centers. Agriculture has been thriving, especially with produce and dairy. Mountain counties farther west continue to depend on coal and to lose population. In 1990, mining employed 10,300 people and produced 46.5 million tons of coal; by 2008, the figures dropped by about half. The district voted narrowly for Democrat Bill Clinton twice, but voted by much wider margins for Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008, the district went 59%-40% for Republican nominee John McCain.