Richmond Times-Dispatch: Spanberger wins Democratic leadership post for battleground districts

Dec 06, 2022
In the News

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, MICHAEL MARTZ

After winning three elections in political battleground districts, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, is now in position to help fellow Democrats win and protect those critical seats in their bid to regain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Spanberger, who lives in western Henrico County, won an intraparty election Tuesday to become the first adviser to the Democratic leadership — now in the minority — on how to appeal to political independents and swing voters in unpredictable House districts.

She defeated Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., by a 33-20 vote of representatives of “frontline” or battleground districts, including those that switched from Republican to Democratic in midterm elections last month that gave Republicans a slim majority.

“Since I came to Congress in January 2019, I have been focused and purposeful in sharing with our leadership the sentiments, beliefs, and priorities of residents of the Seventh District,” Spanberger said in a statement after the vote.

“In this role, I’ll continue to do so as I represent my district, while also bringing the voices of other swing districts to the Democratic leadership table to help Congress better serve all Americans and respond to their concerns.”

“My top priority and responsibility as representative of Virginia’s Seventh District is to serve our neighbors to the best of my ability,” she said.

Spanberger added, “As the first-ever Battleground Leadership Representative, I will use my knowledge of the issues, concerns, and priorities of the Virginians I represent — and Americans across congressional districts — to help the Democratic Caucus make informed decisions, get things done, and better serve Americans across all geographies, of all backgrounds, and who hold a variety of political viewpoints.”

The House Democratic Caucus voted to create the new advisory position last week on the same day it elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., as House Minority Leader to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had announced that she would step down from leadership positions.

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Spanberger ran on her political track record, having won her first election against Rep. David Brat, R-7th, in 2018 in a district that had voted Republican for decades. She won again in the same district in 2020, narrowly defeating state Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper.

Her prospects appeared to take a hit late last year, when the Virginia Supreme Court approved a new congressional map that shifted the 7th District from its base in the Richmond suburbs to eastern Prince William County and the Fredericksburg area. The new district includes all or parts of 11 localities, many of them reliably Republican rural counties.

The new district had voted Democratic in previous statewide elections until last year, when voters there backed Republican Glenn Youngkin by 5 percentage points.

Youngkin campaigned hard this year for Republican nominee Yesli Vega, appearing with her at more than a half-dozen rallies across the district, but Spanberger won by almost 5 percentage points. She won 2-to-1 in Prince William, where Vega serves on the board of supervisors.

Statewide, Democrats held onto two of three battleground districts — the 7th and the 10th, where Rep. Jennifer Wexton defeated Republican Hung Cao by 5.5 percentage points. They lost in the 2nd District, where state Sen. Jen Kiggans defeated Rep. Elaine Luria, D-2nd, in a district that became more Republican under the new map.

“Our districts are not just the districts that make or break the majority on Election Day — our districts are also the canaries in the coal mine of the full two-year term,” Spanberger wrote in a letter last week to battleground district representatives. “We have a front-row seat to the concerns of swing voters and voters from various backgrounds and political viewpoints.”

She called for Democrats to learn how to communicate better to voters who don’t necessarily share all of their political views or values.

“Running in districts like ours requires an expansive approach: speaking about our work in language that resonates with diverse communities, spending time socializing our priorities, and providing evidence of our results,” she added.

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