Rep. Randy Forbes (R)
Virginia 4th District
The clash of arms resounds through much of the history of Tidewater Virginia. The region was the scene of the final victory of the Revolutionary War and saw bitter fighting more than 80 years later in the Civil War, as Union troops invested the battlements of the small industrial city of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. The Blackwater River was a prominent dividing line between Union and Confederate troops. Today, the Tidewater boasts one of the densest concentrations of military power in the world. The Hampton Roads area has the nation’s largest accumulation of Navy bases, while Fort Lee, the big Army base near Petersburg, will more than double in size by 2011, employing more than 14,000.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of Virginia includes much of the Tidewater south of the James River. The district covers some of Richmond’s suburbs but about half its people are in the Hampton Roads area, mostly in the fast-growing suburbs of Chesapeake and Suffolk. Money magazine named Chesapeake one of the best places to live in the country, with its quality schools, open local government and ample green space; it has attracted international investment and is close to passing Norfolk as the state’s second largest city. Suffolk was the original home of the Planters Nut and Chocolate Company and the eastern edge of Virginia’s Peanut Belt, though production has dropped markedly. Growth in Suffolk has centered on high-tech defense contracting firms. The district also takes in the flat lands of Southside Virginia fanning south from the James River. These were tobacco lands after the English first settled them in the 17th century. Today, they also produce Smithfield hams in an area that calls itself the “Ham Capital of the World.” The Great Dismal Swamp, which crosses into North Carolina, is a breathtaking national wildlife preserve that features long hikes into marshy woodland and the shallow Lake Drummond; it was a sanctuary for runaway slaves. The district includes all of Petersburg and Hopewell, with its Honeywell plant and 18th century plantations.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R)
Elected: June 2001, 4th full term.
Born: Feb. 17, 1952, Chesapeake .
Education: Randolph-Macon Col., B.A. 1974, U. of VA, J.D. 1977.
Family: Married (Shirley); 4 children.
Elected office: VA House of Del., 1989-97; VA Senate, 1997-2001.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1977-2001.
The congressman from the 4th District is Randy Forbes, a Republican who won a June 2001 special election. Forbes grew up in Chesapeake, majored in government at Randolph-Macon College, and graduated from the University of Virginia law school. He started a law firm in Chesapeake that later merged with a larger Norfolk firm. His first job in politics was as an aide to the Democratic member of the House of Delegates from Chesapeake. When his boss retired in 1989, Forbes ran and won the seat as a Republican. Four years later, when Republicans were still in the minority, he became the party’s floor leader. In 1997, he was elected to the state Senate. Forbes was a classmate and friend of Governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore in law school, and in 1996 Allen made him Republican State chairman. In that job, he helped engineer the historic Republican 1997 sweep of all three statewide offices.
|Randy Forbes (R)||199,075||(60%)||($942,026)|
|Andrea Miller (D)||135,041||(40%)||($37,670)|
|Randy Forbes (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (76%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (98%), 2001 (52%)
When 10-term Democratic Rep. Norman Sisisky died after cancer surgery in 2001, national and state Republican leaders asked Forbes to run in the competitive seat. He was nominated at a party convention, and then got a break when the strongest Democrat, Sisisky’s son, Mark, declined to run. Democrats chose state Sen. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, an African-American who held a majority-black seat. Both national parties and their interest-group allies spent heavily on the race. Republicans attacked Lucas for opposing repeal of the sales tax on non-prescription drugs and for supporting a gasoline tax increase. Democrats criticized Forbes for his position on Social Security after Forbes said that he favored President George W. Bush’s proposal to let younger workers invest some of their payroll taxes in individual investment accounts. Lucas carried Portsmouth 63%-37%. But Forbes won in more populous Chesapeake 61%-39% and in rural counties for an overall victory of 52%-48%.
In the House, the conservative Forbes is the new ranking Republican on the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, a plum post considering the military presence in his district. He generally backed the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, though in June 2006 he did call for a gradual withdrawal of troops by the end of that year if the Iraqi government wouldn’t declare legal protections for U.S troops.
In the 110th Congress (2007-08), Forbes was the ranking Republican on the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, where he pushed a “law and order” agenda to address drug trafficking, child pornography and gang violence. In 2006, the House passed his bill to make any illegal alien found to be a member of a criminal gang detainable, deportable and ineligible to receive political asylum or other benefits. On the committee, Forbes also cosponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and supported an effort to force doctors to inform pregnant women that a fetus can feel pain during an abortion. He founded the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which has tried to halt the removal of references to God in public dialogue.
Forbes is also interested in energy issues. In 2008, he unveiled a “New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence,” calling for cash awards for companies that meet certain goals such as designing a car that gets 70 miles per gallon of gasoline.
In 2008, Forbes was held to a 60%-40% re-election victory against poorly-funded Democrat Andrea Miller, a former regional director for MoveOn.org who benefited from the local strength of presidential nominee Barack Obama and Senate candidate Mark Warner.