Rep. Rick Boucher (D)
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.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D)
Elected: 1982, 14th term.
Born: Aug. 1, 1946, Abingdon .
Education: Roanoke Col., B.A. 1968, U. of VA, J.D. 1971.
Religion: United Methodist.
Family: Married (Amy Hauslohner).
Elected office: VA Senate, 1975–1983.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1971–83.
The congressman from the 9th District is Rick Boucher (BOW-chur), a Democrat first elected in 1982. Boucher grew up in the antique town of Abingdon, went to Roanoke College and then to the University of Virginia Law School. He practiced law in Abingdon and was elected to the Virginia Senate in 1975, at age 29. Politics run in the family: His father was the Republican commonwealth’s attorney in Washington County, while his mother was county Democratic chairwoman. His grandfather and great-grandfather were Democratic members of the state House of Delegates. In 1982, Boucher defeated veteran Republican Rep. William Wampler with big margins in coal counties along the Kentucky border. Boucher tends to vote with House Democrats, but he sometimes strays, especially on economic issues. Following the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech in his district in 2007, Boucher softened his opposition to gun control laws and in December 2007 helped to enact in a bill requiring states to report mental health court judgments to a federal data base that screens gun purchasers.
|Rick Boucher (D)||207,306||(97%)||($1,153,918)|
|Rick Boucher (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (68%), 2004 (59%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (70%), 1998 (61%), 1996 (65%), 1994 (59%), 1992 (63%), 1990 (97%), 1988 (63%), 1986 (99%), 1984 (52%), 1982 (50%)
He has devoted much of his legislative time to technology issues and is the chairman of the Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee of the influential Energy and Commerce Committee. Boucher sees new technologies, from satellite TV to the Internet, as a means for out-of-the-way places like the 9th to compete with urban areas on an equal commercial basis. In the late 1980s, he sponsored the Satellite Home Viewers Act, so viewers without over-the-air network reception could subscribe to satellite services carrying network channels: the beginning of the now-booming satellite television business. He helped write provisions in the 1996 Telecommunications Act to open competition in local telephone and cable TV markets. He worked with fellow Virginian Bob Goodlatte, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, to update copyright laws for the digital age. He expressed concern that the recording industry’s anti-piracy technology on CDs might override the consumer’s ability to copy albums for personal use, as permitted by law, and he filed a bill to permit circumventing such technology in digital content for “fair use.”
Boucher also plays an influential role on climate change and energy issues. He functions as the chief negotiator for moderate Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Boucher worked closely with then-Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., to enact the 2007 energy bill, including on provisions for tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. (When Waxman successfully challenged Dingell for the chairmanship, Boucher strongly backed Dingell, saying, “Legislating with John Dingell is like playing baseball with Babe Ruth.”) His faction refused to support a global warming bill until targeted goals for carbon emissions and renewable energy production were reduced, which got the attention of Chairman Henry Waxman of California. He and Waxman eventually reached a compromise on the sweeping climate change bill that passed the House 219-212 in June 2009. The bill establishes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and aims to reduce them by 80% from 2005 levels by 2050. It offers some protections of the coal industry. Without the support of Boucher and other members his coal-state faction, Waxman would have had difficulty passing the bill, which was a top priority of the majority Democrats in 2009.
His committee posting helps him raise large sums of political money from industries the panel oversees, and he usually wins re-election comfortably. But he faced spirited opposition in 2004 from challenger Kevin Triplett, a former NASCAR executive with significant support from national Republicans. Triplett promised to do more to foster local economic development and criticized Boucher for voting in 2003 against $87 billion for the war in Iraq. Boucher won 59%-39%. In 2008, Boucher did not have a Republican challenger.