By all accounts, the long-serving congressman’s roots and life in the 9th District thoroughly influenced his work in Washington — and vice versa.
Boucher was known on Capitol Hill for his work on the cutting edge of technology and telecommunications, and he consistently tried to use that knowledge to build a 21st century economy in Southwest Virginia.
Boucher talked up the need for “electronic villages” and broadband Internet service while at home, and then pushed to extend those networks to rural areas using his senior position in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Boucher leaves Congress as a victim of voter anger, the fantasy of the Tea Party and an election driven by those whose message was nothing more than “let’s change even if we don’t need do.”
I’ve had my differences with Rick and he served in Congress for much of my own 23 years in Washington. Our paths never crossed on Capitol Hill. My journalistic focus was not on Southwestern Virginia politics. I got to know him better after returning to Floyd County in 2004. I thought he was too quick to waste taxpayer money on pork barrel projects for the district. We differed on other issues but he was quick to jump into the problems with the National Park Service when it decided to unleash a goon squad on FloydFest attendees a few years ago. They even stopped and harassed Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman.
But as Congressmen go — and I’ve dealt with many over the years and served on the staffs of three — Boucher was better than most. He often put the needs of constituents over demands of his party — a trait that I have yet too see from Republican “yes man” Morgan Griffith who replaces Boucher as our Congressman.
Boucher will be missed. I suspect that as we see more and more of the extremism that has marked Morgan Griffith’s political career in the Virginia General Assembly, we will miss the affable Congressman from Abingdon even more.