Rep. Glenn Nye (D)
Virginia 2nd District
The U.S. Navy Atlantic fleet berthed in its home port of Norfolk is one of the awe-inspiring sights in America, or anywhere. The aggregation of destructive power in the line of towering gray ships is probably greater than in any other single port in history. Several dozen ships are based here—aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, large amphibious ships, submarines, supply and logistics ships—and many more aircraft. Norfolk has been a Navy port since 1801 and has long been recognized as one of the best natural harbors on the East Coast, one that never freezes, has a channel 50 feet deep and is within 750 miles of three-quarters of U.S. manufacturing capacity. The Norfolk Naval Station is now the world’s largest naval station, situated on 4,300 acres on Sewell’s Point, and the Hampton Roads region is the world’s largest naval base, where residents are always within minutes of one naval installation or another. Once a small city, Norfolk is now a metropolitan area of 1.6 million people. The local Navy community— active duty and civilian personnel, dependents, retirees, and workers at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock—is estimated at more than 300,000, and military spending pours some $11 billion annually into the local economy, including $1 billion in construction projects from 2004 to 2008. The Port of Hampton Roads is the third-busiest port on the East Coast, and its cargo volume has grown steadily since 2000.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Next-door Virginia Beach, once a sleepy beach resort, is the state’s largest city, with 434,000 people. It began attracting tourists when rail service to Norfolk began in 1883. It is home to the headquarters of evangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, where the 700 Club is produced. The city has a growing industrial base, including a large tool plant of the German-based Stihl company. But like Norfolk, Virginia Beach is infused with military culture. It is home to four military installations with 35,000 service and civilian employees and an annual payroll of over $1 billion. East Coast Navy SEAL teams are based in Virginia Beach; these elite commandos endure punishing military training and have taken on some of the military’s most secretive and daring missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 2nd Congressional District of Virginia includes all of Virginia Beach, plus small parts of Norfolk and Hampton, including the Norfolk Navy base and Langley Air Force Base and, on a spit of land in the bay, Fort Monroe, where Jefferson Davis was confined after the Civil War. It covers more than 100 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline and stretches from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to North Carolina. There are 110,000 active-duty military personnel in the larger metropolitan area. The district also includes a more placid area, the two Virginia counties of the Delmarva Peninsula, and Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the site of the annual roundup of wild Chincoteague ponies. These rural counties with their fishing villages are two of the state’s poorest. The overwhelming majority of the district’s population is in Virginia Beach. The district leans Republican. George W. Bush carried it handily twice, but Democrat Barack Obama beat former Navy aviator John McCain here 51%-49% in 2008.
Rep. Glenn Nye (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Sept. 9, 1974, Philadelphia, PA .
Education: Georgetown U., B.A. 1996.
Professional Career: U.S. State Dept. Foreign Service, 2001-03; Operations dir., USAID, 2003-07.
The new congressman from the 2nd District is Glenn Nye, a Democrat elected in 2008. He grew up in Norfolk, where his family has deep roots. He graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and joined the State Department in 2001. His first assignment was in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where civil conflict led the U.S. State Department to close the American embassy and evacuate its employees. Nye stayed behind and helped 26 Americans escape the country and negotiated the release of an American hostage held captive by insurgents. He later served in Singapore, where he worked on the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. He also worked in Afghanistan on developing its constitutional convention and in Iraq on economic development and voter registration efforts.
|Glenn Nye (D)||141,857||(52%)||($1,334,146)|
|Thelma Drake (R)||128,486||(47%)||($2,033,543)|
|Glenn Nye (D)||Unopposed|
Nye returned to his hometown of Norfolk, where he decided to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Thelma Drake in the 2nd District. Two years earlier, Drake had fended off Democrat Phil Kellam by only 51%-48% and was vulnerable. Nye quickly raised $100,000, which impressed national Democrats, and they targeted the seat, hoping strong registration efforts by the Obama campaign and the strength of U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner’s campaign would tip the balance in Nye’s favor. Still, Drake’s strong base of support among military personnel made her a formidable candidate, and she outraised by almost Nye 2-to-1.
The candidates engaged in a mudslinging fest. Nye passed out literature hammering Drake for voting in May 2008 against an overhaul of the GI Bill that increased veterans’ benefits; he neglected to mention that she voted for a revised version of the bill a month later. At a September debate, Drake claimed Nye broke the law by accepting a tax exemption on a house he co-owns in Washington, D.C., and she questioned whether Nye actually lived in the congressional district. A spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue found the tax exemption to be legal, and Nye maintained that his primary residence was in Norfolk.
The bickering took a humorous turn when Nye ridiculed Drake for suggesting that actress-turned-humanitarian Angelina Jolie address members of Congress about the situation in Iraq. Drake’s campaign spokesman hit back by claiming Jolie’s input was just as valuable as Nye’s. The Virginia-Pilot’s endorsement of Nye—it endorsed Drake in 2006—may have been indicative of the impending political shift. Nye won 52%-47%, running slightly ahead of Obama district-wide, but well behind Warner.
House Democratic leaders gave Nye a seat on the Armed Services Committee, where he can look after the district’s military installations. He joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally-conservative Democrats. In one of his first legislative ventures, Nye was successful in adding a provision to the Democrats’ $787 billion economic stimulus plan to create tax credits of up to $2,400 for businesses that hire unemployed veterans.