When federal judges in Richmond forced a redrawing of Virginia’s eastern congressional maps, Forbes’ reliably conservative 4th Congressional District seat became demographically untenable for a man known more as a Christian social warrior than an effective lawmaker.
So Forbes decamped into the 2nd District from the 4th, where he still lives. Because the 2nd District grew more Republican in that process, the June 14 primary is likely to determine the prohibitive favorite in November.
A candidate’s physical home may matter less than it once did, but it’s not irrelevant. Neither is a candidate’s record. On that score, Forbes’ performance in Congress has been wanting since his election in 2001. The only bill to become law under his name was the one to rename a post office.
Forbes built his current candidacy on support for the military, his membership on the Armed Services Committee, and his chairmanship of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. But the record during his time in Congress presents its own problems.
• Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach suffered an existential threat during the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission round because Florida was better positioned and prepared than Virginia.
• A few years later Forbes fought to give Virginia localities the right to veto a new outlying landing field for Oceana, which would’ve tied the Navy’s hands.
• In 2011, the Pentagon disestablished the Joint Forces Command in North Suffolk, a decision that damaged the region’s push to make modeling and simulation a vector for growth.
• Just last month, in an Editorial Board interview, Forbes said he now opposes drilling for oil and gas off Virginia’s coast because of Pentagon concerns. Forbes’ reversal is curious because the Pentagon has said since at least 2006 that drilling off Virginia would imperil its training mission.
If Taylor brings inexperience to the task, Forbes’ tenure doesn’t inspire confidence.Neither does his willingness to dwell on issues that divide rather than unite, including in 2013 waging “a lengthy crusade to convince his colleagues and the National Republican Congressional Committee brass they shouldn’t back some gay candidates,” according to Politico.
The 36-year-old Taylor has vowed to avoid such distractions, and has made it a point to strive toward the kind of big tent that has been missing from too many GOP campaigns. . . . . he’s also a candidate of intellectual heft, and his relative moderation would serve the voters of the 2nd District — as did Scott Rigell’s — better than the alternative.
The 4th District, which Forbes vacated, also has decisions to make. The vacancy attracted four candidates — two Democrats, two Republicans — and the winners of this month’s primary will face off in November.
The revised 4th District is more compact than its previous incarnation, with the furthest boundary moving east. It now includes Richmond and Petersburg, which means the center of power has shifted from Hampton Roads.
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Don McEachin appears best positioned to succeed in that role. A lawyer with 16 years in the General Assembly for the people of Henrico County, McEachin has family ties to the Peninsula and experience serving a diverse constituency.
He was quick to admit that he has a learning curve when it comes to advancing issues on behalf of Hampton Roads, and it shows. Though passionate on matters of social justice, he is more tentative when asked about the military or when to deploy it.
He shows a willingness to learn, however, and his success in the legislature inspires some confidence that he has potential as a D.C. lawmaker.