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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Virginia -- 09

Virginia Dems: Bucking Party, Defending Votes

With heavy GOP criticism and recent gubernatorial election results highlighting a shifting mood in the state, Virginia Democratic Reps. Rick Boucher, Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello, all from outside Northern Virginia, took their chances in Saturday night's health care vote and are now back in their districts defending their votes.

In what already appears to be a difficult year for Democrats in Virginia, these three have been busy proving they don't always walk the party line, though Perriello is having a tougher time doing that this week.

Boucher, who's represented Southwest Virginia since 1982, voted with Republicans in opposition to comprehensive health care reform, as did Nye, a freshman who hails from Norfolk. Both must walk a fine line by keeping the more conservative and liberal Democrats in their districts happy.

The two have gone against the party in previous votes -- especially Nye, who voted against the omnibus appropriations and Waxman-Markey climate change bills, among others.

In statements following their votes, however, both Boucher and Nye left open the possibility of supporting the final bill, should there be a compromise with the Senate that is more to their liking.

"It's more important to pass the right bill, one that will reduce costs and help families and small businesses, than to pass this bill right now. ... I'm going to keep working until we get this right," said Nye.

Boucher made a similar statement following the vote: "Reform is needed, and I hope to support the final passage of legislation that emerges from a House-Senate conference..."

Perriello, who represents a diverse district that includes economically struggling Southside and liberal Charlottesville, voted in favor of the House bill and was immediately targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee. After winning by only 727 votes in 2008, he already had a GOP bull's-eye on his back.

He defended his vote in a Monday call with reporters, saying "The choice was between solving the problem and sitting on the sidelines."

Perriello, though, has also bucked his party leadership this year, including publicly supporting a bill that would prohibit congressmen from taking campaign contributions from a company in the same campaign cycle that they requested an earmark for that company. Democrats have so far done nothing with the bill. He also supported, along with only a dozen or so other Democrats, privileged resolutions brought forth by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to look into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions. Those also went nowhere.

Four days before the vote, GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell won a lopsided victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds, including winning Boucher's district with 66 percent of the vote, Nye's district with 62 percent and Perriello's with 61 percent.

In 2008, John McCain won Perriello's district by 3 points and Boucher's by 19. President Obama carried Nye's district by 2 points, in large part because 22 percent of the district's population is African American. In the midterm election, when Obama will not be on the ticket, turnout is expected to drop considerably and make re-election more difficult.

The local newspapers were all over their votes, including Perriello's Charlottesville Daily Progress, Boucher's Martinsville Bulletin, and Nye's Daily Press of Newport News. Perriello also got treatment from the state's largest newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, as did Nye and Boucher.