U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell will not seek re-election in 2016 — giving Democrats a very slight chance to pick up a Republican-held seat.
"With my family in full agreement," the Virginia Republican wrote in an open letter to constituents, "we are confident that my season of public service is to come to a close when my term expires next January."
Rigell was first elected to the Hampton Roads-area district in 2010. At the time, he pledged to serve no more than six terms in office. But he's leaving even sooner than that
three terms instead of six.
Rigell, who made his fortune as a car dealer, said he will "refuse all retirement benefits for which I qualify."
Explaining that he helped build "a strong House majority that would check and balance" congressional Democrats, Rigell said the GOP has become "the driving force that has reduced discretionary spending."
Calling his fifth year of service "a point of decision," Rigell said he preferred to act on his term-limits beliefs and shun a political career for its own sake, and said he is "at peace about coming home."
Rigell is the second member of Virginia's congressional delegation to retire. Fifth Congressional District congressman Robert Hurt announced before Christmas he would not seek re-election.
A three-judge panel redrew the lines of several Virginia congressional districts earlier this month after twice ruling that the lines created in 2011 unconstitutionally packed too many African-American voters into the 3rd Congressional District.
The new map made slight changes to Rigell's 2nd District. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal, filed by Republican members of the delegation, of the lower court's ruling.
Virginia's 2nd District is centered on vote-rich Virginia Beach, and has been very competitive in recent statewide elections.
In 2014, Republican Ed Gillespie beat incumbent Sen. Mark Warner by a single percentage point, while in 2013's gubernatorial election, Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by the same one-point margin.
In 2012, Barack Obama carried the district over Republican Mitt Romney by one point, while Rigell won his re-election bid by seven points.
Longtime Virginia Beach political consultant Brian Kirwin told AMI Newswire that unless Democrats are able to recreate the conditions that prevailed in 2008, when Barack Obama stunned Republicans by winning the traditionally Republican-friendly city, "a Republican wins that seat."
"The district isn't as purple as some people think it is," Kirwin said. "Republicans were caught napping in 2008, when Democrat Glenn Nye defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Thelma Drake by five percentage points. Mr. Obama won the 2nd over 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain by two percentage points.
"Unless Hillary can replicate Obama's energy, and bring out the people he did, Republicans will keep the seat," Kirwin said.