Virginia Incumbents and Their Challengers Often Have More in Common Than Meets the Eye

Aug 14, 2019

Who are the people running against all those incumbent members of the Virginia General Assembly this year? And just how rich are they?

Running for office isn’t for the faint of heart. And it’s not cheap either. According to an analysis of personal financial disclosure forms conducted by the Virginia Public Access Project, about a third or more of the candidates who are challenging incumbents are business owners or rental property owners or people who have essentially no debt.

Credit NPR

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says if they get elected, they’ll need to play hookie from work for two months out of the year. 

“There’s a reason we don’t have a lot of shipyard workers or school teachers or other people like that in the General Assembly because they have to actually be clocked in at the shipyard working or they have to be in front of the students in the classroom,” Kidd explains.

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says the allure of running for office is attractive to a certain kind of person in Virginia. 

“They tend to have college educations and post-graduate educations," he says. "I think a good percentage of them tend to feel they owe a debt back to the country that served them so well.”

In many cases, candidates who are running uphill campaigns against safe incumbents are real estate agents or lawyers where even a losing campaign might give them some name recognition in the district.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.