House leader takes on Boucher

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Virginia House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith’s campaign for Congress became official Friday when the Salem Republican filed as a candidate for the GOP nomination in the 9th Congressional District.

The Republican nominee will take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, who has held the seat since 1983.

Griffith lives just outside of the 9th District, which stretches from the Southwest Virginia coalfields to Roanoke County. But he does not have to live in the district to run.

Salem could well become part of the 9th when the General Assembly reapportions congressional districts next year.

Griffith said he sent a letter and $500 filing fee on Friday that will make him a candidate for the Republican nomination, which will be decided at a May 22 convention.

The legislator already had formed a federal campaign committee and has been lining up support from party leaders in the sprawling district.

He began a major push to line up support for his candidacy during the third weekend in February. “I’m very gratified to have the endorsement of the legislators on the Republican side for the nomination.”

Every Republican delegate and senator representing the 9th Congressional District contributed statements to a news release supporting Griffith a week ago, including two GOP lawmakers who had been urged to seek the seat themselves — Del. Terry Kilgore of Scott County and Sen. William Wampler of Bristol.

Wampler’s father, William Wampler Sr., held the 9th District seat before Boucher defeated him in the 1982 election.

A 2010 challenge by Griffith, if he is the nominee, may be the most formidable since Boucher won re-election in 1984 with 52 percent of the vote against the late Del. Jeff Stafford of Giles County.

Griffith lives just outside the sprawling district, which extends from the Tennessee and Kentucky borders to Roanoke County and includes the City of Galax and Carroll and Grayson counties. Griffith said his property backs up to the district line and that he can’t get out of his neighborhood without driving into the 9th District.

Griffith is not required by law to live in the district to run for the congressional seat. He said he does not plan to move. Salem could become part of the 9th District next year when the General Assembly reconfigures districts to account for population shifts.

Griffith said he is continuing to reach out to Republican committee chairmen and other leaders in the district, hoping to line up a solid base of support.

Five people have filed as candidates for the GOP nomination: Adam Light and David Moore of Tazewell County, Jessee Ring of Pulaski County, Brandon Roop of Blacksburg and William Carr of Patrick County. Jeremiah Heaton of Washington County is running as an independent.

Boucher received a major endorsement last week from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund. The endorsement comes with an A+ rating based on Boucher’s voting record on the Second Amendment.

“Throughout my service in Congress, I have strongly supported gun owners’ rights and have worked closely with the NRA and sportsmen in Southwest Virginia to ensure that those rights are protected,” Boucher said.