RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One of Virginia’s most competitive and closely-watched congressional races could help decide which party takes U.S. House control.
The key race is in Virginia’s new 7th Congressional District, where voters will decide between Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Republican Yesli Vega.
Spanberger, a two-term congresswoman and former CIA officer, is running for a third term in a district that no longer includes the Richmond suburbs.
Vega, a Prince William County supervisor and an auxiliary deputy in the county sheriff’s office, defeated more established Republicans, including a state senator, to win the Republican nomination in June.
8News spoke with Spanberger about her platform, top issues for the 7th District, her time in Congress and more.
Vega’s campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests made since Oct. 5 but made one offer for an interview at a campaign event. Several efforts to contact Vega’s campaign for an interview after 8News rejected the offer were unsuccessful.
A closer look at Virginia’s new 7th District
Virginia’s 7th Congressional District no longer spans 10 counties — from Culpeper and Spotsylvania down to Amelia and Chesterfield — or has most of its voters from Henrico and Chesterfield counties, which accounted for nearly 280,000 out of the more than 450,000 votes cast in 2020.
Instead, the district stretches from Greene County to King George and Caroline counties. Prince William County has the largest share of voters in the district, followed by Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
- Localities added to new 7th District: Parts of Albemarle and Prince William counties, the city of Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Caroline, King George, Greene and Madison
- Localities no longer in the 7th District: Amelia, Chesterfield, Goochland, Henrico, Louisa, Nottoway, Powhatan counties
On the issues
Top issues for voters
Since the new congressional districts were finalized, Rep. Spanberger has spent time introducing herself to the new 7th District and its residents. She said she was excited to keep many constituents she’s represented before but wanted to share what she’s done in Congress with the new district.
“The issues that voters bring up most frequently are issues related to their concerns about every day,” Spanberger told 8News. “Their concerns about the costs of things at the grocery store, the gas pump or the pharmacy counter. Their concerns about the community and safety and their kids’ safety in school.”
Spanberger said she has talked with constituents about efforts to reduce costs of everyday items, noting her vote on the Inflation Reduction Act and its impact on prescription drug costs. The act will give Medicare bargaining power to negotiate drug prices and cap the yearly prescription costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000, but not until 2025.
Polls show that voters are focused on the economy this year, with high costs impacting people’s finances and raising concerns of a potential recession.
In the face of soaring prices for groceries, gas, medicine and more, Spanberger said she’s been having truthful and earnest conversations with voters about inflation.
“Which equates to saying inflation wasn’t created in a day,” she explained. “We continue to be in sort of semi-crisis, post-crisis mode after a multi-year global pandemic that shut down supply chains everywhere from source nations where items were not leaving to our ports that were closed to trucks and trains that were not moving.”
Among other factors, Spanberger cited the ripple effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on energy markets and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its oil-exporting allies cutting oil production.
“The conversations that I’m having with voters when I’m saying not only is all this happening on the global stage but here at home, we have the big four meatpackers making record profits while farmers are not getting their full share, producers are not getting their full share and people are paying more at the meat counter,” she told 8News.
On her campaign website, Vega acknowledges COVID-19 has led to some issues concerning rising inflation but says that “the fundamental lack of respect” for people’s money and future “is at the foundation and the biggest driver of this crisis.” Vega adds that “a constitutionally limited government that lives within its means” is the solution for the economic and fiscal issues.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade pushed abortion rights into the forefront of the political conversation ahead of the midterms, with Democrats and Republicans campaigning on the issue.
In the 7th District race, Spanberger has focused on audio of comments Vega made that appear to downplay whether a woman can become pregnant after a rape.
Vega has denied making the comments, which were reported by Axios. Her campaign has told other outlets that she is anti-abortion with exceptions in the case of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.
“My opponent has been clear when she’s the one doing the talking. She doubts a woman can get pregnant from rape. She has said she supports a national abortion ban. She said she supports a constitutional amendment banning abortion,” Spanberger told 8News, pointing to the Axios report and others.
Spanberger said women and girls face ramifications in states with abortion restrictions, citing women who have been turned away by hospitals and concerns about emergency contraception access.
“The contrast couldn’t be clearer between me and between her [Vega]. This is an issue between a woman and her medical provider and a family member who might be counsel in that situation,” Spanberger said. “There is no place for elected officials like me to dictate to other women what happens to their health.”
Who is winning the money race?
According to records from the Federal Election Commission, Spanberger’s campaign has raised $8.4 million and Vega has brought in nearly $3 million.
Spanberger’s campaign has $597,712.76 on hand, and Vega’s campaign has $259,974.16, the records show.
In terms of spending on political ads as of Nov. 1, a VPAP analysis shows that $14.2 million has been used on pro-Spanberger or anti-Vega ads, and $11.5 million has been spent on pro-Vega or anti-Spanberger ads.
Early voting in Virginia started in September and runs until Nov. 5. Election Day is Nov. 8.