Rep. Bobby Scott (D)
Virginia 3rd District
The history of American slavery literally began along the tidal expanse of the James River. In 1607, the first English colonists chose one of the marshiest, least healthy spots along the broad river as the site of their settlement at Jamestown. Only a dozen years later, the first slave ship sailed up the James and offloaded its human cargo, giving birth to the biracial society of the American South. In the 21st century, the great plantation houses of the Tidewater, entire communities once adorned by the most impressive architecture of the day and attended by hundreds of slaves, still dot the banks of the James. Charles City County—the site of William Byrd II’s Westover, Benjamin Harrison III’s Berkeley, and John Carter’s Shirley—also was the birthplace of two successive presidents, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. The county’s population continues to be heavily African-American. The demography of the plantation remains.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Virginia is the descendant of a black-majority district formed in 1992, and redrawn three times since then. The district jumps back and forth across the James River to string together black precincts and communities in Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News. It moves upriver on the peninsula past Jamestown and Charles City County all the way to Richmond and eastern suburban Henrico County. It includes the Army’s Fort Eustis and all of the majority-black city of Portsmouth, a Navy port and industrial town with a charming old section. The population of Hampton and Newport News has shrunk since 2000, while nearby areas have grown. In 2008, the final two container shipping companies in Newport News announced that they were moving operations to a new cargo terminal in Portsmouth. Politically, the 3rd is the most Democratic district in Virginia and the state’s only black-majority district. Its economy depends heavily on the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company, the largest industrial employer in Virginia, now owned by Northrop Grumman. The ships loom larger than life over nearby neighborhoods. During the Cold War, Newport News built two of the largest tankers ever made in the western hemisphere. In addition to its Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers and Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarines, the USS George H.W. Bush, the tenth and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, was commissioned in January 2009.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: April 30, 1947, Washington, D.C. .
Home: Newport News.
Education: Harvard U., B.A. 1969, Boston Col., J.D. 1973.
Military career: Army Natl. Guard, 1970–73; Army Reserves, 1973–76.
Elected office: VA House of Delegates, 1977–82; VA Senate, 1983–92.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1973–91.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Bobby Scott, a Democrat first elected when the district was created in 1992. He grew up in Newport News, the son of a doctor, went to Harvard, where he was a classmate of Al Gore, and then to Boston College law school, where he preceded John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential nominee. He served in the National Guard and Army Reserves, and returned home to practice law. In 1977, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and in 1983, to the state Senate, representing a multi-racial district in a community where, because of the military tradition of integration, biracial politics came more naturally than in other places. In 1986, he ran a credible race for Congress and lost to Republican Herb Bateman, 56%-44%. In 1992, with his base on the peninsula, Scott won the crucial Democratic primary with 67% of the vote against two Richmond-based candidates. He is the only African-American member of Congress elected from Virginia since Reconstruction.
|Bobby Scott (D)||239,911||(97%)||($506,728)|
|Bobby Scott (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (96%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (96%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (76%), 1996 (82%), 1994 (79%), 1992 (79%)
Scott has a solidly liberal voting record, with occasional exceptions on economic and defense issues, and he is one of the House’s most outspoken civil libertarians. When bipartisan coalitions passed legislation to permit states to display the Ten Commandments in schools or government buildings, he raised First Amendment objections. After the September 11 attacks, he opposed the USA PATRIOT Act, the nation’s tough new anti-terrorism law, arguing that it might promote racial profiling. He opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2002, and was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war. Scott was one of three lawmakers to oppose condemnation of a federal court decision declaring unconstitutional the words “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. “We ought to be standing up for unpopular decisions” and not voting for a resolution that “everyone knows is stupid, but it sounds popular,” he said.
He is the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, where he conducts oversight of criminal laws with the goal of shifting the focus from enforcement to prevention. One of Scott’s legislative successes was the bipartisan Death in Custody Act, which requires states to report deaths of arrestees and prisoners. With Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., Scott won enactment of a bill in October 2008 to strengthen treatment of mentally ill defendants. He also worked to build support for his Youth Promise Act for street gang prevention and for a bill to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine. In May 2009, the Congressional Black Caucus urged President Barack Obama to select Scott to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, although Obama ultimately settled on federal appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
In 2007, he joined with then senators Obama of Illinois and Joe Biden of Delaware in pushing for compensation for black farmers who had been victims of government discrimination. Scott also has been the prime sponsor of the CBC’s alternative budget plan, which would phase out the Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers to finance more spending on domestic programs. The House has routinely defeated the annual proposals, voting 126-292 in March 2008.
In 2004, Scott faced his first Republican challenger since 1996, Winsome Sears, a former Marine and the first black Republican woman in the House of Delegates. Sears criticized Scott as “radical” on national security, education, gay rights and abortion. Scott focused on his record and criticized Republican policies, including an “overextended” military. In this strongly Democratic district, he won 69%-31%. Since then, he has run unopposed.