Freshman Democrat Tom Perriello won this Republican-leaning district in 2008 by defeating incumbent Republican Virgil Goode by less than 800 votes; he won primarily on the strength of Obama supporters. In his first year in office, Perriello has supported Democrats and President Obama on every major significant piece of legislation, including the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care reform.
What makes him different from other Democrats who have supported Obama's agenda is that Perriello, often dubbed one of the hardest working members of Congress, wore those votes on his sleeve. He did not shy away from his record and instead sought to explain to voters in his district why he took on the "delegate" role and voted for Obama's agenda. He's done so in town halls, by crisscrossing his district, and on the air. In the end, his principles, which are to the left of his fairly conservative district (except for its more liberal Charlottesville area), may cost him his job.
Perriello is being challenged by Republican Robert Hurt and third party Independent candidate Jeffrey Clark. Hurt beat out Tea Party favorites in a fractious GOP primary, but the anti-Perriello vote has seemed to coalesce around Clark. While Perriello and Hurt will face off in a series of televised debates in October, Hurt has refused to participate in early debates, even becoming the first person to skip out on the annual Senior Statesman Forum of Virginia, a debate in front of the district's senior citizens. Hurt has said he will not participate in a debate with Clark because he believes Clark is only in the race to siphon votes away from him.