Jan. 11, 2016 — Rounding out the week is our third House retirement announcement, this time from Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Coweta County), a 12-year congressional veteran. The congressman will serve the remainder of this term and then potentially begin a campaign for the open governor’s position in 2018. Incumbent Nathan Deal (R) will be ineligible to seek a third term that year.
Westmoreland, who is in no political danger within the confines of the 3rd District and was unopposed in the last election, said it would not be fair to his current constituency to run for another office while ostensibly representing them in Washington.
Georgia’s 3rd District is located southwest of Atlanta, stretching from the Alabama border to the northeast almost directly into The ATL’s dominant outer suburban ring. The district’s largest population centers are LaGrange, Carrollton, and Griffin, along with the Pine Mountain region. It is a heavily Republican seat, as evidenced from Mitt Romney obtaining 66 percent voter support in the 2012 presidential contest. This, and the fact that few Democrats hold any office in the region, makes it clear that the Republican nomination contest will determine Westmoreland’s successor.
The Georgia state primary is scheduled for May 24, with the all-but-certain run-off slated for July 26. We can expect a large field of Republican candidates. Rep. Westmoreland’s retirement means that 36 seats will be open in the 2016 election cycle, 21 currently in Republican hands.
The special three-judge redistricting panel in Richmond acted yesterday, ordering the new Virginia map they previously approved in place for the 2016 election. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging the new plan and could subsequently stay yesterday’s decision.
Two of the three judges supported the move to enact the map now. The third, Robert F. Payne, dissented saying that while he agrees the panel does have the authority to push forward, this particular ruling should be held until the Supreme Court determines the merits of the lawsuit challenging the new map.
The action means that Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-Chesapeake) 4th District will not be winnable for a Republican because the court desires to create a second minority district. Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D-Newport News) 3rd CD, which was declared unconstitutional early in 2015 because black voters were unnecessarily packed within the current boundaries, will now move out of the Richmond/Petersburg region and solely into the Hampton Roads area. The R/P territory will instead transfer to Forbes’ district. The new 4th would translate into a 61 percent Obama CD, up from the president’s 49 percent tally in 2012.
Elsewhere, Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade (R) announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Dave Brat (R-Glen Allen) for the 7th District Republican nomination. Rep. Brat unseated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) in the 2014 GOP primary. The Wade challenge is serious, and described as an establishment move to reclaim the seat that Cantor lost two years ago.
This weekend, 7th District Republicans will convene to determine the type of nomination system they will adopt for the 2016 election. Rep. Brat’s forces will have a major say in whether a primary, convention, or firehouse primary will be adopted. The latter describes a voting event that features few polling places over a limited amount of time, but so far has only been used in Northern Virginia. The outcome of this local intra-party vote tomorrow will go a long way toward determining who will advance to the general election.