All News & Blogs
First-term Republican Rep. Scott Rigell is facing a tough re-election race.
FILE/ROSS TAYLOR/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
Visit the Photo Place
BY ALAN FRAM
VIRGINIA BEACH--For Rep. Scott Rigell and other Republican House freshmen, groundskeeper Beth Richardson is a dream voter. Sanitation truck driver Jerry Brown is a nightmare.
"For some reason I want to give this guy a chance," Richardson, 53, a supporter of President Barack Obama, said last week of Rigell, who represents Virginia's 2nd District. "Something is telling me he wants to give both sides a chance."
Brown, 31, who like Richardson was grocery shopping near this city's beachfront hotels, said he's unsure if he voted in 2010. That year, tea party conservatives helped propel a GOP House takeover by electing Rigell and 86 other Republican newcomers. This time, Brown has a plan.
"Follow the D," he said, describing his hand gliding across the voting machine to other Democrats after selecting Obama.
The GOP's huge 2010 freshman class is facing voters for the first time since going to Washington, but now it confronts a tougher political climate. Most--like their veteran colleagues--are from safe, conservative districts and are virtually assured of re-election. About two dozen of the 82 freshmen running again are in competitive races, largely in the East and Midwest and often in moderate areas or new districts with less friendly or unfamiliar constituents.
The newcomers' fates hinge partly on who votes on Election Day: people like Richardson who believe freshmen will work with the other side, or like Brown who are drawn to the polls by Obama. Either way, these races will play a big role in Democrats' uphill drive to gain 25 seats and win control of the 435-seat House.
Democrats have tried branding Republicans as champions of the tea party, which was viewed favorably by just 23 percent in a September Associated Press-GfK poll. Aware of that and of Congress' deep unpopularity, some first-term Republicans are portraying themselves as pragmatists; others are distancing themselves from Washington.