RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A GOP sweep of the 2021 Virginia statewide election — and in particular Governor Glenn Youngkin’s victory — appears to have energized the Republican field in two of the most competitive races in the country in the United States.
Tuesday’s crowded Republican congressional primaries in Virginia’s 2nd and 7th districts will determine who faces centrist Democrats Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger in November’s general election, which in turn could help determine which party controls the state House. -United.
Virginia Republicans like their chances. Along with the party’s resurgence last fall, a redistricting process that reshaped the maps of Virginia’s Congress and a national political environment seen as highly unfavorable to the ruling party are also seen as factors that have led to vigorous competition. of the GOP for the seats.
“The climate is so horrible for Democrats. I mean, this might be the worst since 2010, maybe even worse. Republicans feel very emboldened,” said John Whitbeck, former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Virginia’s unusual off-year 2021 statewide elections have been closely watched as an early indication of what this year’s midterms could portend. In addition to toppling all three offices in the state, Republicans also took control of the State House, buoying state Republicans after a nearly decade-long streak of stinging losses.
By comparison, in 2018 when Whitbeck left office, Republicans had 14 candidates running in four nomination contests. This year, the party had 37 candidates running in eight constituencies.
Republicans chose to settle several other nomination contests — including an 11-way fight to run in a Democratic-leaning northern Virginia district — through party-led processes in May.
The 2nd and 7th districts will be closely watched, with the general election seen as a draw by Cook’s nonpartisan political report.
In the 2nd Coastal District, which includes the state’s most populous city, Virginia Beach, four candidates are seeking GOP nomination to take on Luria.
A retired Navy commander who has cultivated a centrist identity in Congress, Luria serves on the Jan. 6 committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol. Luria toppled the district under its old competitive boundaries in 2018. Under its new boundaries, Youngkin won it by more than 11 points, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
His four potential opponents are also all veterans. They include Tommy Altman, owner of a tattoo shop in Virginia Beach; Andy Baan, a former prosecutor who retired as a sea captain; and Jarome Bell, a retired Navy chief petty officer who calls himself the “MAGA candidate”. The three men appear to be facing a difficult climb against State Senator Jen Kiggans, a nurse practitioner and Navy veteran who has served in the state legislature since 2020 and has a large fundraising lead, as well that support from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing House Republicans.
In a fully rebooted 7th congressional district, which has moved away from suburban Richmond and now spans a stretch between Charlottesville and suburban Washington, the GOP nomination contest to rival Spanberger looks more open. A former CIA officer, Spanberger also overturned a competitive seat held by the GOP in 2018 and is now competing under lines that Youngkin would have won, according to analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project.
Bryce Reeves, who has served in the state legislature since 2012 and previously ran in statewide elections, entered the race with high profile. He faces the challenge of Derrick Anderson, a former Green Beret who nearly kept pace with fundraising, and Yesli Vega, a local elected official with a law enforcement background who earned high-profile endorsements. . Crystal Vanuch and David Ross, who sit on local watchdogs, and Gina Ciarcia, an educator who has followed the pack in fundraising, are also in the running.
Monica Robinson, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Republican candidates had spent months moving to the right.
“The only thing these candidates have shown is that they are too extreme to survive a general election against two of the strongest women in Congress,” she said.
Jimmy Frost, 57, a Lowe’s salesman active in Republican politics from Virginia Beach, said he believes the nation’s troubles – which he blames on Democrats – have helped fuel the long list of Republican candidates.
Frost, who has said he supports Bell because he thinks he will tell voters the “blunt truth,” said Luria should be prepared to face angry voters.
“Their children cannot find infant formula for their grandchildren. They cannot afford gasoline to get their children where they need to go. They don’t know how much it will cost them to go to the grocery store today or next week. They don’t know what interest rates are going to do. There’s a lot of people walking around saying, “Oh my God, what’s next?” “, Did he declare.
Without their own main challenge, Spanberger and Luria will almost certainly start general election season with huge fundraising leads. Luria declared nearly $3.4 million in cash on June 1; Spanberger grossed $4.3 million.
Youngkin did not endorse either race, nor did Trump, whose false allegations of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election continued to spread through both primaries.
Bell has called for the execution of anyone involved in what he claims is widespread fraud. Kiggans recently declined to say in an interview with The New York Times whether she believed President Joe Biden had won. And no candidate other than Bell answered questions from Virginia Public Media about whether they would have voted to certify the 2020 results (he said he wouldn’t).
In May, the Virginia Democratic Party released a video highlighting all of the 7th District candidates, but Vanuch was asked about the January 6 violent assault on the Capitol — each declined to call it an insurrection.
Tom Davis, a former U.S. congressman from northern Virginia who backed Vega, said he doubts January 6-focused messaging will resonate in the general election at a time when voters are facing historic inflation. and a collapsing stock market.
“I’m not saying it’s not important. I’m just saying voters don’t seem to care about it,” he said.
Associated Press writer Ben Finley contributed to this report from Norfolk.