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13 candidates vie for Virginia's most competitive congressional district


When Abigail Spanberger announced plans to give up her spot in Congress to run for Governor in Virginia, the news touched off a feeding frenzy according to Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington.

“There is a huge list of candidates running in Virginia’s 7th District. It’s a Prince William, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County district that is the most competitive district of the 11 congressional districts in Virginia," he says.

And Farnsworth notes there's a lot of money involved.

“You’re looking at very expensive contests, in part because Republicans can win this district, or Democrats can win this district. You know open seats don’t come along very often, and so when they do there tends to be a lot of interest.”

Seven Democrats appear on the primary ballot, and Farnsworth says they share many of the same political views.

“When you think about primaries, you really don’t have people with strong ideological differences running against each other. That happens when you have a Democrat versus a Republican in November,” Farnsworth explains.

But one candidate is leading the pack – Eugene Vindman, who came to this country as a child from Ukraine and would go on to a career in the military.

“He’s not only raised a lot more money than the other candidates – more than all of them combined, but his years of public service also creates a compelling story. It may work particularly well in the military-focused 7th District.”

And the Vindman name gained a following during the first impeachment of former President Trump when Eugene’s twin brother testified in uniform. Alexander spent more than 20 years as an army officer and was on the National Security Council staff when Trump offered to meet with Ukraine’s president but only if his administration would investigate Hunter Biden’s activities there.

“I was concerned by the call," he told Congress. "What I heard was inappropriate. It is improper for the President of the United States to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.”

In addition to name recognition, Eugene Vindman has an endorsement from the Washington Post. Again, political scientist Stephen Farnsworth.

“A Post endorsement wouldn’t really help a Republican candidate much, but on the Democratic side that could matter.”

On the Republican side, two candidates dominate a field of six. Here’s Kyle Kondik with UVA’s Center for Politics.

“It seems that the leading candidates are probably Derrick Anderson who ran in 2022 and didn’t get the nomination and Cameron Hamilton. Both of them are veterans.”

Reading the tea leaves, Kondik does not see a consensus for either candidate yet.

“The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the big outside spending group on the Republican side – they just announced a bunch of ad bookings across the country in a bunch of different congressional districts. They didn’t include Washington, D.C. in their bookings.”

Unlike candidates who win in some less competitive districts, Farnsworth thinks the victors in this race will be political moderates, who don’t talk about draining the swamp.

“Because so many people who live in Northern Virginia are connected to the federal government. A lot of the messages that Republicans sometimes offer in terms of government shutdowns or bashing of the federal government may not go over as well.”

And if the race is close, he adds, this congressional seat could fall to the party that wins the White House.

“If Republicans are discouraged by Trump or Democrats are discouraged by Biden and significant numbers of one side or the other stay home, that could create an environment that’s very unfavorable for members of that party up and down the ballot.”

Of course, in the primary turnout is expected to be low on both sides. In many places about ten percent of the electorate takes part. Voters have until June 18th to cast their ballots.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief