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Pick-Up Opportunity in Abingdon?

Joe Johnson (no relation) has represented southwestern Virginia’s 4th District in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1989.  (Del. Johnson also served in the House in the late 1960s.  In fact, the popular Democratic delegate has faced no opposition since returning to the House in 1989!

“We really like Joe,” [Washington County Republican Chairman Richard] Macbeth said [1]. “He’s a straight shooter and the D and the R had nothing to do with him. He will be missed.”

After representing the people of Abingdon and Washington County in Richmond for nearly three decades, Del. Johnson announced that he will not seek another term [2] this November.

“I just feel like, while I’m ahead, now is the time,” Johnson said. “I’m not getting any younger and the trips to Richmond aren’t getting shorter. About 90 percent of my time right now is spent on legislative work.”

“I have a grandson who is going to be a linebacker at Charleston Southern University who I want to go see play and I have two grandsons here in Abingdon playing soccer,” Johnson said. “And I want to spend time working with my church.”

“God has been so good to me,” he said. “It’s been a great journey and the people have always been so kind and so helpful to me and I appreciate them so much.”

Like most of southwestern Virginia, the 4th District (which now also includes parts of Dickinson, Russell, and Wise Counties)–once a Democratic stronghold–has shifted rightward in recent years.  In fact, Mitt Romney carried the district by nearly forty points while President Obama was winning Virginia by 4 points.

Although no Republicans have yet stepped forward to pursue the now-vacant 4th District seat, the district’s recent electoral trajectory suggests that the seat should be an relatively easy pick-up opportunity for the GOP if the party nominates the right candidate.   The 4th should not be taken for granted, though: energetic Adam Light lost a squeaker in the overlapping 38th District Senate seat to Democratic incumbent Sen. Phil Puckett in 2011.

So far, no candidates from either party have publicly announced their interest in the 4th District seat.