RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) will run for re-election in Virginia’s new 7th Congressional District during next year’s midterms.
The new 7th District, approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia on Tuesday, no longer includes the western Henrico suburbs, where Spanberger lives, or the western Chesterfield suburbs. Those Richmond-area suburbs, considered Spanberger’s base during her first two congressional races, are now in Republican Rep. Rob Wittman’s 1st District.
Spanberger will seek a third term in a new district that stretches from Caroline County to Madison County. It also includes the city of Fredericksburg and Dale City in Prince William County.
“Nearly 200,000 Virginians in the new Seventh District have already been my constituents under the current district lines, and I look forward to continuing my service representing them as well as my future constituents,” Spanberger said in a statement Wednesday.
“I will continue to work hard on behalf of their families, their businesses, their farms, and our local economies in the years to come. Much like the current Seventh District, the new Seventh District includes a diverse mix of Virginia’s suburban, rural, and military communities.”
The Virginia Supreme Court was put in charge of the state’s political redistricting, a once-a-decade process of redrawing electoral districts with new census data, after a bipartisan commission failed to get through partisan squabbling to come to an agreement on new political maps.
Maps for new congressional and state legislative districts were submitted by two experts — Sean Trende, a Republican nominee, and Bernard Grofman, the map drawer nominated by Democrats — appointed by the court to help with the process. Changes were made to the maps after two public hearings and written comments and draft maps were shared with the justices and experts.
The initial map for new congressional districts moved the 7th District from Central Virginia to Northern Virginia. The finalized map still moves the 7th District north but it does not encompass all of Prince William County as the first map did.
Looking at all statewide races held from 2016 to 2020, an analysis from the map-drawing experts shows that the new 7th District went to Democrats by, on average, a seven-point margin. An analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project based off the 2016 presidential election has the district as more of a toss-up but still favoring Democrats.
“With the new congressional boundaries now finalized, I also look forward to earning the support of new constituents as I campaign for re-election across Virginia’s Seventh District. I will forever be grateful to the Virginians who elected me in 2018 and 2020, as well as to everyone I have had the honor of meeting and serving across Virginia’s Seventh District,” Spanberger added.
Before the final maps were approved, members of the public expressed concerns that splitting the Richmond-area suburbs into different districts would break up the communities of interest and dilute their votes. Trende and Grofman decided to keep the areas seen as Spanberger’s base in the new 1st Congressional District.
Rep. Wittman, who has represented the 1st District since 2007, announced Wednesday that he plans to run for re-election in the redrawn district. “With the addition of Henrico County and Chesterfield County, I look forward to representing my childhood home,” Wittman wrote in a statement.
Trende and Grofman addressed the requests to preserve the 7th District in a memo accompanying the approved maps, acknowledging that they understand residents’ frustrations but that they could not preserve the current district without splitting the Shenandoah Valley. The map-drawing experts also noted that the population growth in Northern Virginia entitles the region to four congressional districts.
“Although we were unable to identify a global resolution to this complaint that would not set off a cascade of secondary problems, we did feel it incumbent upon ourselves to pay extra care to specific complaints in this region,” the experts wrote. “We have identified a series of changes that do not give these residents what they are ultimately seeking, but that do address some of the valid points that they raise regarding communities of interest.”
Trende and Grofman, in consultation with the court, did not focus on incumbent addresses in an effort to avoid pairing them or pushing them out of the districts they live in.
Despite the districts being finalized, the packed GOP race to unseat Spanberger now sits in limbo as candidates review the new map.
One of the seven Republicans who initially put their name in the hat, state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), announced he was challenging Rep. Jennifer Wexton in the 10th District after the first map was released. But Reeves announced Wednesday that he is again vying for the chance to take on Spanberger in a new 7th District.
Another Republican who filed paperwork to run in the 7th before the new maps were approved, state Sen. Amanda Chase (Chesterfield), told 8News on Wednesday that she is “still weighing options right now.”