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West Virginia's 3rd congressional district
United States House of Representatives, West Virginia District 3 map.png
Current Representative Nick Rahall (D)
Population (2000) 602,556
Median income $25,630
Ethnicity 94.4% White, 4.1% Black, 0.4% Asian, 0.6% Hispanic, 0.2% Native American, 0.0% other
Cook PVI R+6

The Third Congressional District of West Virginia is among the poorest rural districts in the United States. Located in the southern part of the state, it is based in the state's second largest city, Huntington and includes Bluefield, Princeton, and Beckley.

The district has been represented by Democrat Nick Rahall since 1976. It had been the 4th District before West Virginia lost a seat after the 1990 Census.

Character

The modern district has its roots in the politics of the 1960s. For much of its history, the district had been focused on Huntington and the mill towns and farm communities north of that city along the Ohio River. Since 1959, it had been represented by Democrat Ken Hechler, a firm opponent of the state's Democratic machine. The state legislature, reducing the state from five to four seats following the 1970 Census, merged Huntington with much of the old 5th District, comprising several machine-dominated coal-mining counties. That district had been represented by Democrat James Kee of Bluefield since 1965, and his family had held the district continuously since 1933. Even though the district's geography appeared to favor Kee, Hechler won the 1972 Democratic primary by a wide margin, which was tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district. In 1976 he ran for Governor of West Virginia and the seat was won by Nick Rahall, a staffer for U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) whose home is in the district.

Following the 1990 Census, West Virginia lost another district. The 4th was renumbered the 3rd, and much more territory was added to it. The current major areas of the district include the industrial and university city of Huntington; the coal producing southwestern part of the state, which is among the poorest rural regions of the country and which regularly return Democratic candidates by margins of up to 9-10; and the more conservative farm and timber region of the southeastern part of the state. Due to the influence of Huntington, Bluefield and Beckley, it is arguably the most Democratic district in a heavily Democratic state.

The district will continue to exist until the 2010 Census, when projections indicate it will have again lost a large amount of population and need to be expanded in area again.

Despite the strength of Democrats at the local and state level, in presidential elections the district is quite competitive. While Bill Clinton carried the district twice and by convincing margins, Al Gore just narrowly won the district in 2000 with 51% of the vote. George W. Bush won the district in 2004 with 53% of the vote, and John McCain carried the district in 2008 with 55.76% of the vote.

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