The seat being contested is located in Central and Southside Virginia. The district covers all or part of 18 counties and all of 4 independent cities, making it Virginia's largest district with an area of 8,922.03 square miles (23,108.0 km2) - 193 sq mi (500 km2). larger than New Jersey. The 5th district has been represented by Democratic representative Tom Perriello since the 2008 election result, when he defeated Republican incumbent Virgil Goode by 727 votes, one of the closest elections in the nation.
The 5th congressional district was traditionally a conservative Democratic district. Incumbent Virgil Goode left the party to become an independent in 2000, and then a Republican two years later. In his 2008 defeat of Goode, Perriello out-performed the Democratic national ticket in the district, which Republican presidential candidate John McCain carried by 51% to 48%. In the previous two presidential elections George Bush won by 56% and 55%.
Goode did not seek a rematch against Perriello, although he said several Conservative groups asked him to run on a pro-Tea Party ticket, due to their dissatisfaction with the Republicans. Assembly line worker Bradley Rees filed to run as a Republican, then stated he would run on the Virginia Conservative Party ticket, and then suspended his campaign in 2009.