Spot­light on Va. in fight for con­trol of the U.S. House

Democrats hope to flip some GOP seats; Repub­li­cans see turnout as key

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY PA­TRICK WIL­SON

Led by six fe­male nom­i­nees and as­sisted by the big money of Sen. Tim Kaine at the top of their party’s ticket, Democrats are hop­ing to flip Vir­ginia con­gres­sional seats in Tues­day’s elec­tion. With a hand­ful of seats in play, Vir­ginia is in the mid­dle of a na­tional ef­fort by Democrats to take over the House.

In 2017, a year af­ter the sur­prise elec­tion to the pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump, Democrats picked up an un­ex­pected 15 seats in a wave elec­tion for the state House of Del­e­gates while Demo­crat Ralph Northam beat Repub­li­can Ed Gille­spie by 9 points for gov­er­nor, Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring was re-elected and Demo­crat Justin Fair­fax won elec­tion as lieu­tenant gov­er­nor.

If an­other wave ma­te­ri­al­izes on Tues­day it could mean trou­ble for some Repub­li­can in­cum­bents, who cur­rently hold seven of the 11 seats in Vir­ginia’s U.S. House del­e­ga­tion.

“I think we are go­ing to have a good elec­tion night, yes,” said Su­san Swecker, chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Party of Vir­ginia. “But I’m not in the pre­dict­ing busi­ness. I’ll leave that to the pun­dits.”

Jack Wil­son, the new chair­man of the Repub­li­can Party of Vir­ginia, said: “If Repub­li­cans get out and vote en masse the way they did for the pres­i­dent, we’ll be OK in those dis­tricts.” Learn about lo­cal con­tests, Elec­tion Day de­tails. Amend­ments have tax im­pli­ca­tions. Both par­ties bring out big names to woo vot­ers. Learn more about con­tests af­fect­ing area lo­cal­i­ties.

Go to

for ques­tion-an­dan­swer videos and more race cov­er­age.

The Kaine Vic­tory Fund, a joint fundrais­ing com­mit­tee that al­lows a can­di­date to so­licit large do­na­tions that are then dis­trib­uted to can­di­dates and PACs, has raised a Vir­ginia record $8.9 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. In ad­di­tion to cam­paign­ing with ev­ery Demo­crat on the House bal­lots, Kaine can use that com­mit­tee to help other Democrats and the party.

Most Repub­li­can House can­di­dates have avoided cam­paign­ing with the party’s U.S. Se­nate nom­i­nee, Corey Stew­art.

As for the Democrats, “There’s no day­light be­tween any of us,” Swecker said. “Tim Kaine is happy to run with ev­ery­body on the ticket.”

Wil­son took over as state GOP chair­man in Septem­ber fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of John Whit­beck, who an­nounced he was step­ping down not long af­ter Stew­art won the Se­nate nom­i­na­tion.

Wil­son ac­knowl­edged the Demo­cratic en­ergy fu­el­ing this Tues­day’s midterm elec­tion be­gan on the night Trump was elected. Add to that the fact that the pres­i­dent’s party gen­er­ally doesn’t do well in midterm elec­tions, he said.

When he took over as chair­man, he said, he sensed “a gen­eral ap­a­thy around the Repub­li­can base as op­posed to the en­ergy level the Democrats were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.”

But he said Repub­li­cans in Vir­ginia have bridged the en­thu­si­asm gap be­cause of the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for the new­est Supreme Court jus­tice, Brett Ka­vanaugh. He said Repub­li­cans watch­ing the hear­ings re­al­ized that if Democrats take con­trol of the House, they’d start in­ves­ti­ga­tions, create grid­lock and move to im­peach the pres­i­dent.

“It all comes down to turnout and what hap­pens be­tween now and Tues­day, and do we get folks to stay mo­ti­vated and turn them out,” Wil­son said.

Here’s a look at Vir­ginia’s 11 con­gres­sional seats.

Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, a mem­ber of the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus, eas­ily won two years ago against Demo­crat Eileen Bedell with a 15point spread.

Times have changed in a dis­trict that Repub­li­cans have held since 1971. Trump ally Brat is now in “a dead heat race” ac­cord­ing to a fundrais­ing email this week from cam­paign man­ager Katey Price.

Demo­cratic growth in subur­ban Rich­mond has boosted Demo­crat Abi­gail Span­berger, who has a sig­nif­i­cant edge over Brat among likely women vot­ers, ac­cord­ing to polling.

Span­berger, a for­mer CIA of­fi­cer, just fin­ished a cam­paign tour of all 10 coun­ties in the dis­trict.

Brat has not pub­li­cized a cam­paign sched­ule. House Speaker Paul Ryan came to Hen­rico on Mon­day for a fundraiser and re­cep­tion for Brat. The con­gress­man pub­li­cized the event on Face­book four days later with a video clip of Ryan, who praised Brat’s de­meanor and said they had bonded over free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics shortly af­ter Brat ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton.

Brat has at­tacked Span­berger over im­mi­gra­tion and her op­po­si­tion to the tax cut Congress passed and Trump signed last year. Brat has also re­peat­edly tried to tie Span­berger to House Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom Span­berger says she won’t sup­port if elected.

Span­berger talks about work­ing across party lines to solve prob­lems. She gen­er­ally has not crit­i­cized Trump since her pri­mary win.

Democrats are con­fi­dent their base will turn out, and hope Span­berger can draw Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents dis­af­fected by Trump. She had a slight lead in polling con­ducted by Mon­mouth Univer­sity and the con­test was a sta­tis­ti­cal tie in a poll by the Wa­son Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy at Christo­pher Newport Univer­sity.

Lib­er­tar­ian Joe Wal­ton also is on the bal­lot.

The sprawl­ing 5th U.S. House Dis­trict stretches from Fauquier County down to the North Carolina line and in­cludes swaths of ru­ral South­side Vir­ginia. Repub­li­cans have held the dis­trict since 2002, ex­cept for the twoyear term Demo­crat Tom Per­riello won in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected pres­i­dent.

This year, Repub­li­can Rep. Tom Gar­rett opted not to run for re-elec­tion, say­ing he needed to ad­dress al­co­holism. For­mer in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Leslie Cock­burn eas­ily won a cau­cus process to de­cide the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

Repub­li­cans chose Den­ver Rig­gle­man, a for­mer mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer whose fam­ily owns Sil­ver­back Dis­tillery in Nel­son County and who briefly ran for gov­er­nor in 2017.

The dis­trict leans Repub­li­can, but in­cludes Demo­cratic votes in Char­lottesville, Albe­marle County and Danville. Rig­gle­man has fo­cused on tax cuts and jobs; Cock­burn has cam­paigned against nat­u­ral gas pipe­lines, as a pro­po­nent of the en­vi­ron­ment. Cock­burn also rou­tinely at­tacks Trump.

In an ap­par­ent sign of con­cern about a po­ten­tial up­set, the Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund, the Su­per

PAC af­fil­i­ated with Ryan, launched TV at­tack ads on Cock­burn and a spokesman for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee has is­sued news re­leases for weeks fo­cus­ing on Cock­burn. “Will Leslie Cock­burn be able to dis­cuss any ques­tion with­out im­me­di­ately piv­ot­ing back to her in­tense dis­like for Pres­i­dent Trump?” one news re­lease said.

Trump has en­dorsed Rig­gle­man, but er­ro­neously re­ferred to him as “con­gress­man” in a tweet and said he was a “Really big help with Tax Cuts.”

Democrats ex­pect to flip North­ern Vir­ginia’s 10th U.S. House Dis­trict, where Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock, a Repub­li­can, is seek­ing a third term. Com­stock faces state Sen. Jen­nifer Wex­ton, D-Loudoun. The dis­trict in­cludes Loudoun, Clarke and Fred­er­ick coun­ties, parts of Fair­fax and Prince Wil­liam coun­ties, and the cities of Winch­ester and Manas­sas.

Wex­ton had an 11-point lead over Com­stock, in a Wash­ing­ton PostSchar School poll.

Times were look­ing tough ear­lier this year for Rep. Scott Tay­lor, R-2nd, a for­mer state law­maker seek­ing a sec­ond term in the Vir­ginia Beach-based 2nd Dis­trict.

Cam­paign staffers for Tay­lor signed forms help­ing get an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date, Shaun Brown, on the bal­lot in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to draw votes from Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Elaine Luria. A Rich­mond judge in Septem­ber or­dered Brown re­moved from the bal­lot af­ter find­ing “out and out fraud” in bal­lot pe­ti­tions she pre­sented to get on the bal­lot — in­clud­ing in sig­na­tures gath­ered by Tay­lor’s staff. Tay­lor had al­ready fired a cam­paign con­sul­tant.

The Democrats have touted Luria’s résumé as a for­mer naval com­man­der and at­tacked Tay­lor, a for­mer Navy SEAL, for vot­ing to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act. But Tay­lor, a Repub­li­can who sup­ports gay rights, touts his con­nec­tion to his dis­trict.

Tay­lor led 50 per­cent to 43 per­cent in a poll last month from the Wa­son Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy at Christo­pher Newport Univer­sity.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, didn’t face the na­tional Demo­cratic at­ten­tion that GOP in­cum­bents Tay­lor, Brat and Com­stock at­tracted. Wittman faces Demo­cratic chal­lenger Vangie Wil­liams, a strate­gic plan­ner for a fed­eral con­trac­tor.

Fol­low­ing con­gres­sional re­dis­trict­ing in 2015, the dis­trict in­cludes Hanover and New Kent coun­ties, two con­ser­va­tive strongholds in the Rich­mond sub­urbs that pre­vi­ously were in the 7th Dis­trict.

The sprawl­ing 1st Dis­trict stretches from Prince Wil­liam and Stafford coun­ties down to the North­ern Neck, Mid­dle Penin­sula and part of the Penin­sula.

Wittman, of West­more­land County, has held the seat since 2007. He is chair­man of the Seapower and Pro­jec­tion Forces Sub­com­mit­tee of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. He has aired a TV ad em­pha­siz­ing the time he spends lis­ten­ing to con­stituents in his dis­trict. Democrats hope a large wave elec­tion could gen­er­ate an up­set for Wil­liams, a King Ge­orge County res­i­dent.

For­mer state Sen. Don­ald McEachin, a Demo­crat, eas­ily won elec­tion in the newly drawn 4th U.S. House Dis­trict in 2016 over Hen­rico Sher­iff Mike Wade, a Repub­li­can. Af­ter the 2015 re­dis­trict­ing, the 4th in­cludes the cities of Rich­mond and Peters­burg, as well as parts of Ch­ester­field and Hen­rico coun­ties. The dis­trict stretches down to Ch­e­sa­peake and Suf­folk in Hamp­ton Roads.

Democrats ex­pect McEachin to win re-elec­tion against GOP chal­lenger Ryan McAdams, an evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor who lives in Charles City County. Northam car­ried the dis­trict in 2017 with 62 per­cent of the vote.

Repub­li­cans ex­pect vic­to­ries for Rep. Mor­gan Grif­fith, R-9th, and state Del. Ben Cline, who is run­ning to suc­ceed re­tir­ing Rep. Bob Good­latte, R-6th. The 9th is in South­west Vir­ginia and the 6th stretches from Har­rison­burg down the Shenan­doah Val­ley and in­cludes the cities of Lynch­burg and Roanoke.

Demo­crat An­thony Flac­cavento is chal­leng­ing Grif­fith, who first won the seat in 2010 by beat­ing Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Rick Boucher. In the 6th, Demo­crat Jen­nifer Lewis is run­ning against Cline.

The three other Demo­cratic in­cum­bents ap­pear to hold safe seats.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd, has no Repub­li­can chal­lenger in his dis­trict, now in Hamp­ton Roads. In North­ern Vir­ginia, Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, is run­ning for re-elec­tion against Repub­li­can chal­lenger Thomas Oh and Rep. Gerry Con­nolly, D-11th, faces Repub­li­can Jeff Dove.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.