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Democrats Aim to Hold on to Competitive 7th District Seat

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite


Virginia’s 7th District stretches from Culpeper all the way south to Blackstone, encompassing the suburbs west of Richmond. The mix of rural and suburban voters makes for a competitive race, this year between Republican Nick Freitas and incumbent Abigail Spanberger. 


Two years ago Abigail Spanberger narrowly ousted hardcore conservative Dave Brat. The former CIA agent and first time political candidate made history by becoming the first Democrat to win the Central Virginia seat in decades. 

Spanberger positioned herself as a moderate and immediately backed the claim up by voting against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. To this day she’s still critical of Democratic leadership. In a recent interview with RADIOIQ she blamed her own party for failing to pass a second wave of COVID relief. 

“This should have been done back in May, but back in May House leadership - and this is on my party - House leadership decided to prioritize a partisan bill and then talk for months on end about how the Senate wouldn't take up our partisan bill,” Spanberg said.  

She herself voted against that bill, saying it wasn’t a good faith effort, and the fact that Republicans in the Senate haven’t taken it up doesn’t surprise her. She adds her vote should not be interpreted as lack of support for COVID-19 relief. She’s all for extending programs that deliver direct financial aid to businesses and people. 

“Programs such as extended unemployment direct payments to individuals, continued PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) support, support to our states and our localities,” she lists.  

But Spanberger says that’s not going to happen without bipartisan dealmaking. She says she’s still working to negotiate with Republicans. 

“The senior standing in line at the food bank is still trying to survive, the small business owner who hasn't taken a paycheck since March or April is still trying to keep that business afloat, to keep people employed,” Spanberger said. “The unemployed worker who is looking desperately for work in an economy that is collapsing is still trying. And the kids who are learning virtually in these unimaginable circumstances are still trying. And so I am still trying to deliver aid to all of them.” 

Try or not - those efforts still haven’t been successful. 

A map of the 7th Congressional District

In a district where Spanberger is consistently challenged at town halls by conservative constituents she walks a centrist tightrope. On immigration: she’s for strengthening border security and helping undocumented immigrants become citizens. On gun violence: she often points out she used to carry a gun for work but also thinks there should be universal background checks.

And on health insurance: she does not support Medicare for All, but does think the government should provide health insurance for those who want it. 

“Those who have an employer provided insurance, who wish to keep it, can do that” Spanberger said. “But those who are small business owners, who are entrepreneurs, they can access healthcare either through a marketplace plan or through the Medicare-X choice plan.” 

And even amidst a global pandemic, she says it’s always an appropriate time to talk about the need to tackle the country’s soaring deficit. 

Spanberger, like hundreds of thousands of other Virginians, has already voted in the election. She cast her ballot in person at the registrar’s office in Henrico County on the first day polls opened -- including a vote for Democrat Joe Biden. 

Click here for a conversation with Spanberger’s opponent, Republican Nick Freitas.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.


Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.
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