RICHMOND - Republican Morgan Griffith toppled 14-term Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher on Tuesday, winning over the 9th District as well as the majority of its voters in Henry and Patrick counties.
Griffith, who serves as majority leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, said he "never really felt confident" of winning until fairly late Tuesday evening.
"We were guardedly optimistic" going into the election, but a lot depended on whether "we were reading things right," he said, explaining that he was disappointed in the results of "a couple of polls."�
Griffith expressed surprise at his margin of victory - he earned 51.17 percent of the vote to 46.46 percent for Boucher.
The difference was larger in Patrick County, where Griffith received 60.05 percent of the vote, or 3,304 votes, to Boucher's 37.65 percent, or 2,072 votes. Independent candidate Jeremiah Heaton of Washington County received 122 votes, or 2.21 percent, in Patrick.
"I clearly thought the race would be closer than that," Griffith said. "... I tend to be a cautious, conservative person."�
The margin was narrower in Henry County. Griffith won 2,994 votes, or 52.48 percent of the vote, in the 9th District precincts, compared with Boucher's 2,554 votes or 44.77 percent. Heaton received 156 votes, or 2.73 percent, in the Henry County precincts.
Turnout in Henry County was 47.3 percent and in Patrick County it was 45.8 percent.
Griffith said his biggest priority after taking office in January will be ensuring that "cap and trade is dead and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) needs to back off," he said.
Boucher's vote in favor of the cap and trade emissions legislation became Griffith's biggest point of criticism in the campaign.
Boucher, of Abingdon, has said he was asked by the coal industry to work on the legislation, which he did. He stood by that decision while running for re-election.
Although the legislation passed the House, it stalled in the Senate.
After ensuring that it is stalled for good, Griffith said he "will work on building jobs."�
Boucher credited his Showcasing Southwest Virginia program with creating 5,000 jobs in the district during his nearly 28 years in office.
"Mr. Boucher kept talking about all the jobs he created, but you don't have to go very far in the 9th District to realize" there are not enough jobs to go around, Griffith said.
On Tuesday night, he attended a victory party at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Bristol, and then "I'm going to sleep," he said.
Boucher tried to make an issue out of Griffith's Salem residency, pointing out that the Republican does not live in the district he will represent. Griffith called that his "greatest weakness." Although he was not able to vote for himself on Tuesday, he said several family members who live in the 9th did cast ballots for him.
He has said repeatedly that he believes his home will become part of the 9th when the districts are redrawn based on this year's census figures.
During a concession speech Tuesday night, Boucher said he called Griffith to offer his help, advice and support during the transition.
Reflecting on nearly three decades in office, Boucher said he may not have enjoyed every moment, but he did enjoy every day in office.
He thanked his staff and campaign workers who, it turned out, were working against "insurmountable odds," he said. He also thanked his wife, Amy Boucher, for her work on the campaign.
"The record of this public service will live for years to come," Boucher said as he thanked his supporters at what was to have been a victory party Tuesday. "I'll see you along the trail one of these days."�