Race to replace Rigell begins

abogues@vagazette.com

In an open letter emailed to supporters and constituents, U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election in 2016.

During his time in office, Rigell has held the 2nd Congressional District seat since 2010 and has carved out an image as a moderate Republican in a swing district.

A recent redistricting order from a federal judge moved portions of the 2nd District to include the city of Williamsburg as well as the eastern portions of James City County.

The incumbent Congressman's retirement is likely to increase the attention surrounding the district in what promises to be a competitive election this fall.

"With my family in full agreement, we are confident that my season of public service is to come to a close when my term expires next January. When I make that trip home from Washington for the last time, it will be bittersweet. We have been on a remarkable six and a half year journey; a year and a half seeking office and five years serving what I'm convinced is truly the best congressional district in America," wrote Rigell in the email.

"Consistent with the pledge I made when I first asked for your support in 2009, upon leaving Congress I will refuse all retirement benefits for which I qualify."

Rigell's office declined to comment when reached last week about the possibility of running for re-election in the new 2nd District, which now includes portions of James City County and Williamsburg.

While the change makes Rigell's district marginally more Republican, it also complicates his re-election challenge, William and Mary Government Department Chair John McGlennon said.

"There are a lot of ambitious office holders and non-office holders in that district," McGlennon said.

An even slightly more Republican district might embolden potential conservative challengers, while a presidential election year tends to bring out Democratic voters.

Taylor intends to run

Shortly after Rigell's Thursday announcement, state Del. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach, said he is entering the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Taylor also unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the 2nd District in 2010, losing to Rigell in the primary. He was first elected to the General Assembly in 2013.

"I think Scott Rigell has done a great job. Now there's an opportunity to elect someone who understands America is at a crossroads in terms of the economic issues that are important to 2nd District families and also national security issues, foreign policy issues and the way we're perceived around the world," Taylor said.

Taylor is a former Navy SEAL and veteran of the Iraq war. He said he was confident he could win in the new district reconfigured by a federal court last week.

"… I am confident we'll be able to be competitive and win in the old district or the new district," Taylor said. "We have a compelling message, we're highly organized, and have a message that will resonate with everyone. "I've been in Williamsburg recently. We have friends up and down the Hampton Roads area. There's military folks and where I'm not familiar I will get familiar."

Across the aisle praise for Rigell

Minutes after Rigell announced his plans to leave office, reaction began to pour in.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack praised Rigell's service.

"Scott Rigell has worked hard representing his constituents in the House of Representatives and we wish him and his family well in the next chapter of their lives," Pack said.

"The NRCC fully expects to keep Virginia's 2nd Congressional District in the Republican column as voters continue to be fed up with the big government, tax-and-spend agenda of Richmond and Washington, D.C. Democrats."

Across the aisle, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine praised Rigell for his efforts with bipartisanship.

"Scott Rigell has played a unique role in the House of Representatives throughout his three terms. There are few Members of Congress who are as focused on doing what's right and working with any and all partners to find common ground," Kaine said. "I am thankful for Scott's service to the Commonwealth and I will really miss working together."

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, who currently represents most of the Williamsburg area, also thanked Rigell for his service.

"Scott told me a few weeks ago that, as Representative of Virginia's Second Congressional District, it has been his goal to 'serve without fear and leave without regret.' That's the aspiration of a statesman and a servant leader, and it's one that all of us here in Congress should adopt. Scott has been more than a colleague; he has been a friend," Wittman said.

He concluded, "I am sad to see Scott go, but I know that he has made the best decision for him and for his family. I look forward to serving beside Scott during this second session of the 114th Congress and to many years of friendship as he returns to the private sector."

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, also lauded Rigell for his efforts to reach across the aisle.

"At a time of historic partisan division in Washington, Scott Rigell has been a unique voice for bringing people together to get things done," McAuliffe said.

"Scott and I have enjoyed a productive working relationship during my time as Governor on important issues like protecting our military assets in Hampton Roads and making our elections process work better. I am thankful for his independent leadership for the people of this Commonwealth and wish him the best as he begins a new chapter."

Bogues can be reached by phone at 757-345-2346. Staff writer Dave Ress contributed to this report.

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