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RICHMOND — Republican delegate and Virginia House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith is considering a run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by Democrat Rick Boucher of Abingdon.
Griffith said he has had conversations with people in the district and officials from the National Republican Congressional Committee about challenging Boucher, but is far from making a decision about seeking the seat in the November election.
Griffith was not reticent to criticize Boucher's voting record, particularly the Democrat's support last year for legislation creating a cap-and-trade system to curb pollution emissions.
"I think I wouldn't even be thinking about this if Boucher had been doing his job," Griffith said Monday.
Griffith said his Salem home sits just outside of the 9th Congressional District, which extends to the coalfields of far Southwest Virginia. He has not thought about whether he would move to challenge the veteran congressman, he said.
"I can look out my window and see the 9th District," said Griffith, who actually lives in the 6th District represented by Republican Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County. "I can't get out of my neighborhood without driving through the 9th District."
And when the General Assembly draws new congressional district boundaries next year, Griffith's home could well end up in the 9th District.
Griffith said he wants a strong candidate to challenge Boucher this year "because what Boucher does affects Southwest Virginia as a whole."
One potential challenger, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, has opted not to run for the seat despite prodding from state and national Republicans.
"I think what's happening is a strong candidate has not emerged yet," Griffith said in explaining how his name has come into the mix.
Griffith voiced particular disdain for the cap-and-trade bill, which critics say will drive up energy prices and jeopardize coal and manufacturing jobs in the 9th District. A bill that Boucher helped negotiate has passed the House, but the Senate has yet to take action on the issue.
Boucher has said that he fought to include protections for the coal industry in the bill, and that he negotiated provisions that would enable utilities to continue using coal and further develop "clean coal" technologies, among other things.
Boucher is one of 39 Democrats who voted against the House's health care reform legislation late last year, and his vote on a final compromise measure will be closely watched.
Griffith said Monday his attention is focused on a more immediate matter — the 60-day General Assembly session that began this week.