Virginia 2: Rigell Retirement Shifts Seat Out of Safe for GOP

Nathan L. Gonzales January 14, 2016 · 4:00 PM EST

Republican Rep. Scott Rigell is retiring from Virginia’s 2nd District, leaving a competitive open seat for his party to defend. The news, first reported by the Virginian-Pilot, was a surprise to some people who have worked closely with the congressman in the past. 

The Virginia Beach-based district is competitive. President Barack Obama won it 50-49 percent in 2012 and 51-48 percent in 2008 and Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly won the 2nd, 47-46 percent, in the 2013 gubernatorial election against conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, under the current lines. But a court-ordered map would improve the GOP performance of the seat by a couple of points.  

Rigell was a talented candidate with strong ties to the business community through his car dealerships and connection to the African-American community through black pastors and churches. The population of the 2nd District is about 22 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic. 

Potential Republican successors include former state Sen. Jeff McWaters, state Sen. Frank Wagner, and state Dels. Scott Taylor and Chris Stolle. Newly-elected state Delegate Jason Miyares is also mentioned. He’s a former prosecutor and former top campaign aide to Rigell

After two strong re-election victories, there wasn’t much of a Democratic appetite to take on Rigell this year. But the open seat will spark new interest in the seat.

The 2nd will now host a competitive congressional race as well as be a swing area in a presidential swing state.The congressional race is obviously just beginning, but it is no longer Safe as an open seat. We’re changing our rating to Lean Republican as the dust settles.