Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R)
Virginia 6th District
The sturdy men and women who settled the Valley of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge were quite different from the “second sons” of the European aristocracy who cleared the marshy forests of the Tidewater and built grand plantations there. Even before the Revolutionary War, Scots and Scots-Irish, German Protestants and Mennonites and Moravians—members of religious communities and fiercely independent farmers—poured down the great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania to the valley. They were looking not for the flat, mahogany-brown land that eastern tobacco growers sought, but for land that could support wheat, corn, and hay—crops that could be rotated and that an individual farmer and his family could handle. That same independent spirit nurtured the growth of higher education here. In Lexington alone are Washington and Lee University, which Robert E. Lee headed, and the Virginia Military Institute, where Stonewall Jackson taught philosophy and artillery tactics and which did not admit women until 1996, when it was forced to by the U.S. Supreme Court. A trio of distinguished women’s colleges is nearby: Mary Baldwin College at Staunton, Sweet Briar College at Sweet Briar, and Hollins University at Roanoke. Also nearby is the respected Randolph College, which is now co-ed. President Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace is in Staunton. Industry flourished here more than in most of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge. In the 19th century, the Norfolk and Western Railway established its chief junction at Roanoke, and as the years passed the city became the headquarters of the railroad, now Norfolk Southern, and many other companies. The city has lost population since the 1980s, but recently benefited from downtown renovation and a new biomedical center. It has a way to go to catch up to more high-tech savvy regions of the country, though: The Roanoke-Lynchburg area ranked last among 79 U.S. markets for broadband use.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Virginia covers the heart of the Valley of Virginia, from Strasburg south to Roanoke, and it crosses over the Blue Ridge to take in Lynchburg, the home of Liberty University, a fundamentalist Baptist college. In recent decades, the ancestral conservatism of the region and the feisty politics of the mountain rebels have melded into a single conservative Republicanism, more populist than elitist in tone, as concerned with moral values as economic freedom, and prickly about interference from Washington or even from Richmond. In 2004, the 6th District voted 63% for Republican President George W. Bush, his highest percentage in a Virginia district. In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain easily defeated Democrat Barack Obama here, 57%-42%.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Sept. 22, 1952, Holyoke, MA .
Education: Bates Col., B.A. 1974, Washington & Lee Law Schl., J.D. 1977.
Religion: Christian Scientist.
Family: Married (Maryellen); 2 children.
Professional Career: Dist. dir., U.S. Rep. Caldwell Butler, 1977–79; Practicing atty., 1979–92.
The congressman from the 6th District is Bob Goodlatte, a Republican first elected in 1992. Goodlatte grew up in Massachusetts, the son of a Friendly’s ice cream store manager and a part-time retail clerk. He attended Bates College in Maine, where he was president of the College Republicans, and then went on to law school at Washington & Lee. After college, he got a job on the staff of Republican U.S. Rep. Caldwell Butler of Roanoke. Goodlatte practiced law in Roanoke and stayed active in politics. In 1992, when Democrat Jim Olin retired, Goodlatte was nominated by the Republican convention to run for the seat and won the general election 60%-40%.
|Bob Goodlatte (R)||192,350||(62%)||($1,996,993)|
|Sam Rasoul (D)||114,367||(37%)||($382,473)|
|Bob Goodlatte (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (75%), 2004 (97%), 2002 (97%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (69%), 1996 (67%), 1994 (100%), 1992 (60%)
Goodlatte has a conservative voting record, and is best known for his work on the House Agriculture Committee, which he chaired when Republicans were in the majority. The agriculture in his district, as he notes, is “free-market oriented: poultry, livestock, orchards. It gives me a pretty free hand to work with all the different regions of the country.” In the minority, he worked closely with committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., to enact the new farm bill in 2008, serving as the committee’s informal liaison to the White House. He helped to broker a compromise on country-of-origin labeling of meat in the bill. In 2008, he joined 50 other House Republicans in urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce ethanol production requirements. “I support the development and use of alternative fuels. However, we cannot allow government mandates to pick winners and losers,” he said. In 2004, he worked with other tobacco state lawmakers to successfully steer to passage the tobacco buyout program—specifically, the end of Depression-era quotas and price supports—while also blocking the Senate’s attempt to make the buyout conditional on Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco. On another issue, he met major protests, including some at home, when he objected to a bill designed to stop the slaughter of horses. He argued that it would produce increased horse abuse and neglect, but the House passed the bill in 2006. Term limits imposed by Republican Conference rules forced him to give up his leadership position on the committee in 2009.
Goodlatte’s other locus of activity is the Judiciary Committee. In 2003, he sponsored the House-passed bill to limit class-action lawsuits against tobacco companies, gun makers and other companies, and a separate bill to give federal courts jurisdiction over large class-action suits. In response to conservatives’ complaints over federal court decisions that cite legal rulings of other nations, he sponsored a bill stating that judicial decisions should not be based on foreign precedents.
With 9th District Democrat Rick Boucher of Virginia, Goodlatte has been a House leader on technology issues and has chaired the GOP’s High-Tech Working Group. He supports a permanent ban on Internet taxes, and failing to achieve that goal in 2007, he helped to broker an agreement for a four-year prohibition. Goodlatte sponsored the Communications Decency Act, allowing censorship of obscene material on the Internet, which was overturned by the Supreme Court. To combat spyware software that tracks users’ activities and identifying information, he won House passage of his “I-SPY Prevention Act” to criminalize the installation of such software without the owner’s approval. In 2009, Goodlatte co-sponsored a bill to require presidential candidates to make their birth certificates public. Detractors said the legislation’s sole purpose was to feed unsubstantiated theories that Democratic President Barack Obama was not born the United States and therefore not eligible to serve as president.
Goodlatte has been consistently reelected without difficulty, and encountered no problem when he abandoned in 2002 his pledge to serve no more than 12 years. In 2008, he faced businessman Sam Rasoul, who was 26 and Goodlatte’s first Democratic challenger since 1998. Goodlatte won 62%-37%.