Rep. Randy Forbes currently represents Virginia’s 4th District, but he decided to run for reelection in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District after court-ordered redistricting made his old seat heavily Democratic. | Getty
GOP Rep. Randy Forbes lost his primary Tuesday night, marking the second time in two weeks that redistricting played a role in felling a Republican House member.
State Del. Scott Taylor had 53 percent of the vote to Forbes’ 41 percent when The Associated Press called the Republican primary with 78 percent of precincts reporting in Virginia’s 2nd District.
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Forbes currently represents Virginia’s 4th District, but he decided to run for reelection in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District after court-ordered redistricting made his old seat heavily Democratic. Republican Rep. Scott Rigell left the 2nd District open when he retired, and Forbes campaigned there on his clout on military issues, including a powerful naval subcommittee chairmanship, which Forbes argued would help him boost the region’s military economy.
But Forbes’ insider pitch fell flat. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL and current state lawmaker, painted Forbes as both a Washington insider and a 2nd District outsider. Ultimately, the populous Virginia Beach area — which Forbes had never represented but where Taylor had previously run for mayor as well as Congress — voted strongly in Taylor’s favor, dooming Forbes.
Forbes outspent Taylor 10 to 1 in the race, bombarding him on area airwaves during the weeks leading up to the primary and attacking Taylor for having a court record. Forbes dubbed Taylor a Hillary Clinton-like “rule-breaker” and asked, “Why send another one to Congress?” in one ad. (Politifact Virginia rated Taylor’s claims as half-true.)
Taylor, meanwhile, built on his past bids for office while running a campaign based on face-to-face meetings and social media. He often attacked Forbes for living outside the district.
“The fact that Forbes didn’t live in the district was very clearly portrayed by Taylor and it resonated with voters, and it clearly resonated more than Forbes’ seniority,” said J. R. Hoeft, a Forbes supporter and editor of the conservative Virginia political blog Bearing Drift.
Forbes and other House Republicans from Virginia tried to block the new congressional map in court, after judges ruled that Virginia’s old district lines had been illegally gerrymandered. But the Supreme Court dismissed the case in late May, saying the lawmakers didn’t have standing to sue because they couldn’t prove the new map hurt them individually.
“Originally, Representative [Randy] Forbes argued that he would abandon his campaign in District 2 and run in District 4 if this Court ruled in his favor,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision. “Now, however, he has informed the Court that he will continue to seek election in District 2 regardless of this appeal’s outcome. Given this change, this Court does not see how any injury that Forbes might have suffered is ‘likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.'”
Forbes is the second incumbent Republican to lose his run for reelection this cycle. The first came last week, when North Carolina Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers lost after redistricting set her up in a head-to-head battle with fellow GOP Rep. George Holding. Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, who is under federal indictment, also lost his primary in Philadelphia earlier this year.