Nov 9, 2022 - Politics

Red wave fizzles in Virginia

Kiggans and Spanberger. Photos: Nathan Howard/Getty Images, Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Republicans gained ground in Virginia last night, but not as much as they wanted.

What's happening: Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger narrowly fended off a challenge by Trump-endorsed Prince William County supervisor Yesli Vega in the state's 7th Congressional District on the outskirts of Northern Virginia.

Meanwhile, Jen Kiggans, a Republican state senator and nurse practitioner, beat Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in the Virginia Beach-anchored 2nd Congressional District.

Why it matters: The two races were the most competitive in the state and widely viewed as a bellwether for Democrats' larger chances of holding their House and Senate majorities, which remained uncertain late Tuesday evening.

The big picture: While the result allowed both parties to claim victory, the outcome fell short of the red wave Republicans were hoping for.

  • The Republican candidates both underperformed Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who won Spanberger's district last year by 6 percentage points and Luria's by 11, per Virginia Public Access Project estimates.
Data: Virginia Department of Elections, AP; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Virginia Department of Elections, AP; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: The 2nd District race pitted two Navy veterans against each other in a military-heavy district that became slightly more favorable for Republicans when it was redrawn last year.

  • Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot, emphasized economic issues throughout the campaign, attempting to tie Luria to President Biden and inflation. Luria, who served on the House Jan. 6 committee, criticized Kiggans for not taking a stand against election denialism.

Compared to Luria, Spanberger faced a Trumpier candidate in a more Democratic-friendly district, which Biden won in 2020 by 6.8 points.

  • Vega, a former police officer, touted endorsements from key Trump allies during the six-way primary contest. But during the general election, she distanced herself from Trump, and in the final days of the race, Vega barely acknowledged the former president's endorsement.
  • Spanberger emphasized her moderate politics and support for abortion rights, which she contrasted to Vega's inaccurate remarks about pregnancies stemming from rape.

Worth noting: Neither of the Richmond area races delivered any surprises with GOP Rep. Rob Wittman and Democratic Rep. Don McEachin both cruising to easy victories.

And bond referendums in Henrico and Chesterfield overwhelmingly passed.

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