Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes is now the third incumbent to lose in a primary this year, the victim of mid-decade congressional redistricting.
The seven-term Republican congressman saw his GOP-leaning district become heavily Democratic after a federal court ordered new lines drawn. Faced with a near-certain general election loss, Forbes decided instead to run in the neighboring 2nd District, where GOP Rep. Scott Rigell was retiring.
But in the new district, state Del. Scott Taylor was the surprise victor on Tuesday, despite being heavily outspent by Forbes. According to Norfolk’s Virginian-Pilot newspaper, “Taylor’s victory came after a bruising primary campaign in which he and Forbes traded personal barbs that challenged each other’s character and ability to support national security and the region’s defense-centric economy.”
A week ago, North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers became the first GOP incumbent to be ousted. Like Forbes, her loss was in part because of redistricting, which forced her into a primary contest with fellow Rep. George Holding.
Conservative groups — unhappy with several votes and promising to make an example of what happens if a lawmaker moves away from conservative orthodoxy — spent more than $1.1 million against Ellmers. But the complicating factor of redistricting in both races means that, even in a year when anti-establishment sentiment propelled Donald Trump to become the party’s unlikely presumptive GOP presidential nominee, the two losses can’t be read as backlash against party incumbents.
Earlier this year, Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania became the first incumbent to lose re-nomination this cycle. But he was facing a 29-count federal indictment for racketeering, bribery, mail fraud and more.