Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

Can you remember the last time Virginia voted for a Democrat for President?

Where did you live? Who were your Senators? Congressmen? (There were no women in Congress from Virginia-until Lesley Byrne was elected in 1992.)

In 1964 (the last time Virginia voted for a Democrat for President), I lived in Arlington, where I worked hard, but unsuccessfully, to elect Gus Johnson to Congress. The ticket of Johnson (Lyndon) & Johnson (Gus) seemed headed for victory, but long-time conservative Republican. Congressman Joel Broyhill won by a very small margin even though President Johnson carried the district handily. In 1966, Republican William Scott replaced Byrd-supported and segregationist Howard Smith in the House after Smith lost to liberal Democrat George Rawlings in the primary.

Scott later (1972) defeated one-term moderate William Spong for the U. S. Senate seat previously held by Byrd ally Willis Robertson.

Broyhill was defeated in the aftermath of Watergate by Arlington County Board member, Joe Fisher, in 1974. Supervisor Herb Harris (D.-Mount Vernon) defeated another conservative, Congressman Stan Parris, in the adjoining district to the south.

The euphoria of the 1974 election did last long. In the 1980 Reagan landslide, Fisher and Harris both lost. Fisher lost to current Congressman Frank Wolf, and Harris was beaten by Parris in a rematch. Congressman Jim Moran beat Parris in 1986. After the 1991 redistricting-and my one-vote victory that year-in 1992 Leslie Byrne was the first to represent the new 11th District. After one term, she was defeated by Tom Davis.
In the Senate in 1964, Virginia was represented by the father of “massive resistance” to public school integration, Harry F. Byrd, and his ally, Willis Robertson. Harry Byrd, Jr. followed his father to the Senate in 1966, but became an independent in 1970, and, like Conn. Senator Joe Leiberman, caucused with the Democrats. Byrd was re-elected in 1970, 1976 and was replaced in 1982 by Republican Paul Trible who was replaced in 1988 by former Governor Charles Robb, son-in-law of President Lyndon Johnson. Robb was defeated in 2000 by former Governor George Allen, who was then replaced by Sen. Jim Webb in 2006.

Unlike Senator Lieberman, who campaigned vigorously for Senator McCain, however, Senator Byrd maintained a ‘golden silence” and never openly endorsed a Republican-or a Democrat-for the Presidency.

With the election of Mark Warner, Virginia is represented by two Democrats in the Senate for the first time since 1970, when Harry F. Byrd Jr. ran for re-election as an independent. And Barack Obama’s convincing victory in Virginia confirmed the remarkable change in the Old Dominion that this native Virginian doubted he would see.