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Spanberger notches third term, defeating Vega in the 7th District

A person speaks at a microphone in front of an American flag
Crixell Matthews
Following a tight race billed as a bellwether by national pundits, Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is headed back to Congress. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) is headed back to Congress after pulling off her third narrow victory in one of Virginia’s tightest midterm election contests.

Billed as a bellwether by national pundits, Spanberger’s win in a tight Congressional race — paired with Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s (D-10th) win in Northern Virginia — gave Democrats a note of optimism in a state that slipped out of their grasp during last year’s governor’s race.

“Tonight, we must recommit ourselves to the cause of our country, to the communities we live in and to our neighbors, whether they align with us politically or not,” Spanberger said in a short speech at a watch party in Fredericksburg.

Spanberger was new to politics and fresh from a career in the CIA when she edged past Republican Dave Brat in the 2018 midterms. She cast herself as a centrist willing to work with Republicans on areas of common ground. In September, she publicly chastised Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for blocking a vote on legislation she’d championed — seeking to ban members of Congress from trading stocks — ahead of the elections.

Republicans, including challenger Yesli Vega, were quick to dismiss such rhetoric as theater designed to distract from Spanberger’s reliably Democratic voting record. The daughter of a preacher who emigrated from El Salvador in the 1980s, Vega delivered rebukes to Spanberger, President Joe Biden and Democrats writ large. At times, she suggested God was on her side.

"What's been predestined for us in heaven, no man or liberal can take from us," she said at a rally last month.

When she returns to Congress, Spanberger has said she wants to see the body codify abortion rights, lower the cost of prescription drugs by boosting domestic production and pass a ban on assault-style weapons.

Vega voiced support for taking a harder line on immigration, cutting taxes and reining in “reckless spending” by the federal government. The auxiliary deputy with the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office said during the primary she would have joined the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus. She also voiced support for impeaching Biden and has questioned the validity of the 2020 elections.

Spanberger will represent a district that drifted north as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. It now stretches along the Interstate 95 corridor, along exurbs of Washington, D.C., south through Fredericksburg, and west to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greene County.

The district also became bluer; Democrats won an average of 52% of the vote in federal elections from 2016 to 2018 compared to roughly 47% for Republicans, according to the map-drawers. The 7th District is among the most diverse in the state, with 15% of voters identifying as Hispanic and 22% as Black.

Watching from a Spanberger party in Fredericksburg, local businessman Randy Harris said he liked the Democrat’s willingness to work with Republicans.

“We’ve got so much partisan politics today that you can be turned off of politics,” Harris said. “And I think she's that politician that we need today.”

This is a developing story.


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