Iowa Delegate Count;
Rep. Fincher Announces Retirement;
Virginia Lines Set

Feb. 4, 2016 — The Iowa delegate count released a day after the first-in-the-nation caucus concluded suggested that declaring a “winner” of the nominating event is a bit of a misnomer.

Though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) finished first in the Republican race, his delegate take appears to be a grand total of eight. Second and third place finishers, Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are awarded seven delegates apiece. Dr. Ben Carson receives three delegates, and all other participants get one apiece. Therefore, Cruz’s Iowa “victory” is netting him a one-delegate margin. He now needs 1,229 delegate votes to win the nomination, while Trump and Rubio both need 1,230, thus putting the Iowa Caucus vote into perspective.

The Democrats have a much more complicated delegate apportionment formula that rewards margin of victory in geographic regions. Therefore, despite Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) pulling into a virtual tie with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton within the state delegate system (701-697), the national delegates break 29-21 in the latter’s favor. This being said, in the face of claims to the contrary, Clinton did actually place first in Iowa because she gained in the all-important national delegate count. Under the Democratic structure a candidate needs 2,383 delegate votes to win the presidential nomination.


In what is suddenly becoming a flood of congressional retirements, three-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump/Crockett County) made public his intention to bypass re-election next year.

Rep. Fincher’s decision means 39 incumbent House members are not seeking re-election either for retirement reasons or wanting to pursue a different political office — nine in the past six weeks alone. Rep. Fincher, according to the stories about his decision to leave Congress, said he does not believe congressional service is a career, that he’s honored to have served, and re-stated his desire “to return to Frog Jump and his family.” Rep. Fincher was in no electoral trouble having won three strong victories in western Tennessee territory that was long in Democratic hands. He succeeded veteran Rep. John Tanner (D-Halls) in the 2010 election.

Four individuals, all Republicans, immediately announced for the seat. State Sen. Brian Kelsey, former US Attorney David Kustoff, state Rep. Steve McManus, and former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn will soon make official candidate declarations.

Fincher’s retirement decision means that 19 members who have served three terms or less will not seek re-election later this year. Ten are running for another office, while nine are retiring.

Now with 39 open seats (24R-15D), what was thought to be a cycle featuring an average number of incumbent-less campaigns is quickly approaching the huge departure numbers of 2012 and 2014, which exceeded 100 combined.

Virginia Redistricting

Announced on the day of the Iowa Caucuses and therefore lost in the media coverage shuffle, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling on the Republicans’ motion to stay the new Virginia congressional lines crafted by a lower court federal panel. Early last year, a special three-judge panel sitting in Richmond declared Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D-Newport News) 3rd District unconstitutional by means of racial gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court denied the Republicans’ motion to stay, meaning the new map that turns Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-Chesapeake) 4th District into a Democratic seat will take effect in 2016. The situation dictates that Forbes change districts if he wants to remain in Congress.

Fortunately for the veteran representative, he has two choices. In and around the Tidewater region are open district 2 and 5. Both representatives Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach) and Bob Hurt (R-Chatham/Charlottesville) are not seeking re-election. Each of these districts became much more Republican under the new redistricting plan.

Forbes has not yet announced his 2016 political plans, but it seems clear he is headed to Rigell’s 2nd District. Though he has not previously represented Virginia Beach, Rep. Rigell has publicly called for Forbes to seek election in this CD. State Delegate Scott Taylor is already an announced candidate, so it is clear that Forbes will draw Republican competition.

Regardless of which Republicans win open districts 2 and 5, and the identity of the new Democrat who takes CD-4, the Virginia congressional delegation is likely to see a Democratic gain of one seat. If so, the delegation will feature seven Republicans and four Democrats in the next Congress instead of the current 8R-3D split.

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