Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Virginia 11th – Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) is seeking a 2nd term
Primary: June 8, 2010
Location: Northern Virginia/D.C. suburbs
Days until Election Day: 90
Though Virginia's 11th district has no greater strategic importance or significance than any of the other 434 congressional districts in the nation, Republicans would probably still get an extra kick out of defeating its freshman congressman, Democrat Gerry Connolly.
For starters, this Northern Virginia district is one of the closest in proximity to the U.S. Capitol. A defeat here would deliver congressional Democrats a blow in their own backyard. In addition, Connolly won the seat in 2008 upon the retirement of Republican Rep. Tom Davis, who kept this Democratic-friendly district out of Democratic hands for 14 years. Winning his old seat back would be a satisfying tribute to Davis, who also masterminded the House GOP campaign strategy from 1998 to 2002. And with polls closing at 7:00 p.m. ET, an early win here could signal to the nation a significant Republican wave on Election Night.
Connolly has a long track record of winning elections in this district, having served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from 1995 to 2008. In the Democratic primary two years ago, he defeated former Rep. Leslie Byrne, 58 percent to 33 percent. Byrne represented parts of this district for one term in the early 1990s but was defeated in 1994 by Davis. In the 2008 general, Connolly defeated Republican businessman Keith Fimian, 55 percent to 43 percent.
In Congress, Connolly has been a reliable Democratic vote. According to Congressional Quarterly, he supported President Obama's position on key votes 96 percent of the time and voted with a majority of his party 97 percent of the time. He voted in favor of the major Democratic legislative initiatives of the past two years: health care reform, financial reform, the Obama economic stimulus package, and the "cap and trade" energy proposal.
Once again, Connolly's Republican opponent in the general election will be Keith Fimian, the CEO of a home inspection company. Fimian won a contested and expensive primary over Patrick Herrity, a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors since his election in 2008. Fimian beat Herrity 56 percent to 44 percent, but the contest burned a significant amount of Fimian's resources. As of June 30, Fimian had spent $914,000 and had $272,000 in the bank. Connolly, who had no primary opponent, spent $488,000 and had $1.3 million in the bank. In 2008, Fimian slightly outspent Connolly, with both candidates shelling out roughly $2 million each.
Virginia's 11th district is located in Northern Virginia and includes some of the D.C. suburbs. Obama carried the district with 57 percent of the vote, two points better than the 55 percent Connolly garnered in his race. Although the area is generally Democratic-leaning, Republicans often win here as well. Davis, for example, was elected and re-elected to Congress as well as the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a period spanning almost 30 years. And most notably, President Bush carried the district in both 2000 and 2004, with 52 percent and 50 percent of the vote, respectively.
Connolly currently has a leg up in the race. He's relatively well known by seasoned voters. He also defeated Fimian by a comfortable margin two years ago, even when they were essentially evenly matched financially. Connolly also currently enjoys a financial advantage, but that could change quickly depending on how deep Fimian is willing to dig into his own pockets. Fimian spent $325,000 of his own money in 2008 and has already spent at least $100,000 from his personal funds this year. Connolly is breathing easier than many other freshman Democrats this year, but under the right circumstances, the race could tighten.