RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In the wake of high-stakes midterm elections, the partisan makeup of Virginia’s congressional map is unchanged with one exception.
Virginia voters sent ten of eleven incumbent lawmakers from both parties back to Congress. Democrats limited their losses despite some harsh political headwinds. The GOP had hoped to flip three seats, but they were only successful in one of those races.
University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato said the so-called ‘red wave’ Republicans promised came up short.
“It was a Republican tide, but the tide turned out not to be very strong either,” Sabato said. “Republicans did a bit better than Democrats, but they did way less than they expected and that Democrats expected.”
The lone defeat for Virginia Democrats came in District 2, where two-term Congresswoman Elaine Luria lost her seat. Luria, a Navy veteran, was considered the state’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbent going into Election Day after redistricting shifted her district to the right.
State Senator Jen Kiggans, a fellow Navy veteran and geriatric nurse practitioner, will replace Luria in Congress.
“Please don’t boo,” Luria told a frustrated crowd in concession speech late Tuesday night. “The success of this district depends on her success.”
Luria, a member of the “Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack,” also raised concerns about former President Donald Trump teasing a third White House run. She said she is “just getting started” when it comes to defending democracy.
Kiggans, like other Republican candidates, closely followed the playbook that helped Governor Glenn Youngkin win over voters last year, when the GOP swept statewide races. She focused on reining in inflation, reducing crime and protecting parental rights in education.
“My mission over the next two years is to work everyday to restore that strong economy, and restore that strength in our border, and restore the strength of our communities, and restore our strength on the world stage,” Kiggans said during her victory speech.
In District 7, Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer, is heading back to Washington D.C. for a third term after coming out on top in another toss up race against Republican Yesli Vega, a law enforcement officer and Prince William County Board of Supervisors member.
The race was considered an early bellwether of how vulnerable Democrats would perform in close races across the country. Spanberger largely ran on her record of bipartisanship.
Asked how she avoided getting swept away by a ‘red wave,’ Spanberger said, “Some of our country’s hardest problems can’t be solved in a day but having earnest conversations about the ways that we can chip away at problems or achieve things like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, or bringing investments into our community, or protecting our freedoms are real questions that matter to people. Being able to speak to those I think has been important.”
Vega didn’t concede the race on Election Night, telling supporters that “we want every single vote to be counted.”
Late Wednesday morning, Vega followed up in a statement on Twitter congratulating Spanberger and thanking her supporters.
“I look forward to working with Abigail in the future,” Vega wrote. “While this loss is heartbreaking, I’m still committed to serving Prince William County on the board of supervisors. We live in the greatest country in the world, and I pray for a better and brighter future for us all.”
Sabato said Spanberger was “one of the big winners of the night” nationwide. He said some are already asking her to run for governor in 2025 because of her performance.
In District 10, which was considered less competitive though still in play, also stayed blue. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton declared victory on Tuesday night. Republican Hung Cao, a retired Navy captain, conceded the race.
The party in power in the White House typically loses seats at halftime but, as of Wednesday evening, neither party had secured control of the House and Senate.
Despite losing a seat, Democrats in Virginia celebrated on Tuesday night.
“Tonight Virginia Democrats won big. After a difficult redistricting, our Congressional Democrats ran hard-fought campaigns across the state, defeated Glenn Youngkin-style Republican extremism, and showed that Democratic values win,” Virginia’s Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker said in a statement.
Youngkin aggressively campaigned for GOP candidates in Virginia and across the country this election season. Many saw his victory in 2021 as a bad sign for Democrats ahead of the midterms.
In a statement, Gov. Youngkin congratulated Kiggans and noted that the 7th and 10th districts “were tight and tough races.”
“We’ve always said that the House majority would run through Virginia and it looks like that’s exactly what may happen after flipping the 2nd congressional district,” Youngkin wrote. “We must continue to address those kitchen table concerns with common sense solutions.”
Sabato thinks outrage surrounding the overturning of Roe v. Wade blunted what could’ve been a much bigger night for Republicans.
“It motivated young people. It motivated suburban women to turn up in much larger numbers than they usually do,” Sabato said.