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Spanberger Declares Victory After Daylong Wait For Returns

Rep. Abigail Spanberger
Rep. Abigail Spanberger

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) declared victory over Republican Nick Freitas on Wednesday evening, almost 24 hours after polls closed.

The Associated Press has yet to call the race. Freitas said in a statement that he would wait to make a formal announcement out of "respect to the importance of this race and the hundreds of thousands of ballots that have yet to be canvased." That process concludes on Friday.

Spanberger’s announcement likely caps off a handful of repeat victories for Virginia Democrats who flipped three Republican-held seats in 2018. But it comes against the backdrop of a tense partisanship that Spanberger has repeatedly vowed to help heal. She reiterated that theme in a speech to supporters at her campaign headquarters in Henrico, quoting Abraham Lincoln. 

“'May our children and our children's children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country,'" she said. “Let that be the country we build for them, and one day, leave for them."

The former CIA operative urged followers to be patient on Wednesday afternoon as nearly 55,000 absentee ballots from Spotsylvania and Henrico Counties remained unreported throughout the day. Freitas held a narrow lead through most of Wednesday. 

The results from the counties buoyed Spanberger to an over 5,000-vote lead of just over 1%. 

The total does not include another 7,000 ballots in Henrico County that will be added to the candidates’ tallies on Friday, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. Spanberger currently leads by 20 points in the county. 

Spotsylvania County Registrar Kellie Acors attributed the delay to equipment. Some of the scanners the county used to tabulate early voting results mistakenly combined ballots from two separate Congressional districts, she said. 

In Henrico County, officials initially overlooked roughly 15,000 absentee ballots because they were uploaded to a memory stick meant for provisional ballots, according to VPAP.

The county’s increasingly blue makeup was crucial to Spanberger’s 2018 victory over Republican Dave Brat in 2018. The Glen Allen resident made healthcare a central theme of that win. She repeated that messaging this year, attacking Freitas over his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Freitas focused his message on reducing government regulations and his support for President Donald Trump. 

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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