PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger was first elected to Congress in 2018, flipping a Republican seat in what was later dubbed the “Year of the Woman” for the report variety of ladies elected to federal and statewide places of work.
Four years later, Spanberger, a average Democrat from an exurban Virginia district, is working for reelection to her swing seat amid a special kind of woman-focused motion — one spurred by backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s determination hanging down abortion rights.
Her opponent, Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, is a foil tailored for this second, a staunchly anti-abortion Republican who appeared to downplay the potential of being pregnant after rape in surreptitiously recorded feedback from June.
Spanberger has leaned into abortion rights as a galvanizing situation for Democrats and swing voters, making her opening argument in a industrial that referred to as Vega “too extreme for Virginia” for supporting a complete abortion ban with out exceptions for rape, incest or the lifetime of the mom.
“It’s an issue that has become front of mind for many people across the country. In our district it’s particularly front of mind, given my opponent’s positioning and the things she’s said,” Spanberger, 43, instructed HuffPost in an interview this weekend.
“She’s just extreme. The fact that she thinks that it would be appropriate to go to Washington and dictate what happens in the lives of women in what may be some of the hardest moments of their life — it’s an extreme position,” she mentioned.
Elections forecasters give Spanberger the sting as Republicans’ benefit within the midterms appears to be slipping. A high elections forecaster re-rated Virginia’s new seventh Congressional District “Leans Democrat” after calling it a “Toss-Up” earlier this yr, reflecting the blowback to the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion rights and the perceived constructive reception of President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
“It’s been choppy,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner mentioned of his occasion’s prospects whereas campaigning for Spanberger on Saturday. “But I feel a heck of a lot better than I did 60 days ago. I think people know what’s at stake. It’s the increasing bizarreness of some of these candidates.”
Abortion, nevertheless, was a footnote for each candidates on the marketing campaign path this weekend following the beginning of early voting within the midterms — nearly a yr since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin gained on a pro-parental rights platform as tensions erupted over masks mandates, “critical race theory” and transgender college students. The tug of warfare over faculties continues to be on the forefront on this yr’s election, voters from each events instructed HuffPost, together with the squeeze of rising inflation on households and the specter of “extremism” as outlined by either side.
“People are concerned about the crumbling economy, yeah? People are concerned about the wide-open border, yes? People are concerned about the safety of their children, yes? People and parents and grandparents are concerned about the education of their children, yes?” Vega, a legislation enforcement officer, shouted at a rally in Prince William County on Saturday.
“We started a movement here in the Commonwealth of Virginia last year, where we said that parents absolutely matter.”
Vega referred to as Spanberger somebody with “no spine, no courage to stand up for the people of the 7th District.”
At one level, Vega talked about her “favorite president of all time” and drew an “oh man” from the viewers when she cited Ronald Reagan and never, presumably, Donald Trump, whom she didn’t point out in any respect throughout her remarks.
Vega bristled when requested about showing to agree with an inaccurate concept that being pregnant is much less doubtless after rape. “Those comments were not the comments that I ever stated,” she instructed reporters, though audio of her remarks was made public. She added that the query was posed by a Democratic tracker a few particular research.
“I’ve been very clear on my position,” she mentioned. “I am pro-life. I will always stand up for the defenseless, for the voiceless … Abigail’s party has gone from safe, legal and rare to anywhere, any time, at any point funded by the taxpayers. That is my contrast between me and my opponent, that she’s an extremist when it comes to the issue. I am not.”
Vega’s supporters agreed they’re not those with far-out views. “I’m pro-life. If you want to call me an extremist, that’s fine. But I’m very proud I feel that way,” Kathleen Dwight, a retiree from Fredericksburg, Virginia, instructed HuffPost.
Vega’s feedback have been an apparent dig at Spanberger, who has portrayed Vega as out of contact with a average district that features many active-duty navy members, veterans and authorities staff. Democrats cite a radio interview by which Vega agreed with the conservative host that Republicans ought to attempt to shut down the federal government with the intention to choke the Biden administration’s spending, and marketing campaign messages the place Vega referred to as the FBI “corrupt” following its authorized search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
As the daughter of Salvadorian immigrants, Vega’s supporters say she espouses the values of a area with a rising Latino base that prioritizes security, training and immigration reform.
“I believe that her message relates to the American Constitution,” mentioned Maria Martin, a former GOP candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates who was born in Bolivia. “We are ready to preserve the lighthouse that is the United States.”
If 2018 was the “Year of the Woman,” then 2022 might find yourself being the “Year of the Latina.” A report variety of Latinas are working for House seats this yr, and Vega is one in every of a number of from the GOP competing in key races that can decide management of the chamber, the place Democrats are clinging to a slim majority.
Spanberger epitomized the feminine candidate who ran and gained in 2018 — a average who was photographed giving her election evening victory speech together with her 4-year-old daughter enjoying at her ft. The images got here for example the rising ranks of girls and moms penetrating the male-dominated halls of Congress.
Spanberger gained each of her earlier races by lower than 2 proportion factors. Youngkin, not but a full-fledged MAGA warrior, gained what’s now the brand new seventh Congressional District by 5 factors, making Spanberger’s activity this yr nonetheless difficult. The district spans the Richmond suburbs and exurban Virginia, with 53% of residents figuring out as white and 17% as Latino. Prince William County, the place 62% of residents establish as nonwhite, makes up a 3rd of the district.
“Many of us [Latinos] moved to Prince William County with a dream of having our own property, and that might mean having to qualify by having to work three jobs, or it’s a household of single parents or both parents working and that’s what they can afford,” mentioned Democratic Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. “We want to be respected as any other member of the district.”
Unlike different endangered Democrats, Spanberger isn’t distancing herself from Biden or her occasion — she declined to bash Biden for his pupil mortgage forgiveness order, which some Democrats have referred to as well-intentioned however poorly executed. Instead, she’s emphasizing her want to reach throughout the aisle.
“What I’m doing is I’m telling people who I am,” mentioned Spanberger, a wonkish member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who labored on counterterrorism instances as a CIA officer. “I’m a Democrat. I’m a pragmatist. I’m focused on getting things done. I’m a coalition builder. I’m proud to be a bipartisan member of Congress.“
Despite a deeply divided Congress, Spanberger told HuffPost she wants to get along with Republicans — a safe message for a split district. “The idea you get to Congress and all of the sudden you don’t have to talk with half of the people you work with, or half of the people you represent, is a terrible reality,” she mentioned.
Spanberger carried that message to voters at a canvassing kickoff in Prince William County, a once-red, now-purple county that’s new to the district, the place Vega occurs to be an area official.
Gathered in a supporter’s driveway in a suburban subdivision, Spanberger, wearing a vivid blue blazer, prepped volunteers by encouraging them to focus on her workplace’s capacity to help with Veterans Affairs and Social Security points, and to speak about her efforts to go a congressional stock-trading ban.
“If you look at the Democrats that have won here — Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Joe Biden — these are folks who have strong track records of being bipartisan, strong track records of being workers and not partisan warriors,” mentioned Ben Litchfield, an lawyer and Democratic candidate for state Senate.
“There are a lot of Biden-Youngkin voters who are talking about her very positively,” he mentioned.