Af­ter vic­tory, Span­berger looks ahead: ‘I want to be ac­count­able’

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

up­set Dave Brat to win the House 7th Dis­trict race.

A day af­ter she won elec­tion to a seat in Congress, Abi­gail Span­berger and her fa­ther were pick­ing up Chi­nese food for din­ner at a restau­rant near her Hen­rico County home.

“Are you Abi­gail Span­berger?” a woman asked. Other peo­ple in the restau­rant, re­al­iz­ing their con­gress­woman-elect was there, be­gan con­grat­u­lat­ing her. A fa­ther took her pic­ture with his son.

“That was the real mo­ment of re­al­ity that we’ve def­i­nitely en­tered a dif­fer­ent place,” said Span­berger, a Demo­crat and for­mer CIA of­fi­cer who up­set Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, on Tues­day in a na­tion­ally watched race that hinged on her sup­port in the Rich­mond sub­urbs.

In a phone in­ter­view Fri­day, her first since win­ning, Span­berger said she was not sur­prised that she won. She and her team felt in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent when they saw elec­tion re­turns show­ing her cam­paign had closed gaps in ru­ral, Repub­li­can areas of the dis­trict.

Her mind was rac­ing Tues­day night af­ter run­ning on adren­a­line for months, then win­ning and giv­ing a vic­tory speech while her

youngest daugh­ter, Cather­ine, 4, crawled un­der her legs.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Span­berger told her three daugh­ters, Cather­ine, Char­lotte, 7, and Claire,

10, that she was work­ing hard to win but would be proud ei­ther way.

“I wanted them to see the im­por­tance of even run­ning, re­gard­less of the out­come.”

Her hus­band, Adam, an en­gi­neer, works from home, and he, their par­ents and other fam­ily mem­bers helped spend time with their daugh­ters dur­ing the cam­paign.

Among the cam­paign’s stress­ful mo­ments, Span­berger said, was know­ing op­po­nents had pur­chased air­time for a TV ad and wait­ing to see it.

“The first time I ac­tu­ally saw one of the at­tack ads I laughed be­cause it was so ridicu­lous, in my opin­ion,” she said.

Span­berger, mo­ti­vated to run by the sur­prise elec­tion of Don­ald Trump to the White House, eas­ily dis­patched fel­low Demo­crat Dan Ward, a for­mer Marine pi­lot from Or­ange County, in a pri­mary in June. She got more votes than any pri­mary can­di­date of ei­ther party on the June bal­lot in Vir­ginia.

In the gen­eral elec­tion, she out­raised Brat 2-to-1.

As of Oct. 17, Span­berger had raised close to $5.9 mil­lion com­pared with $2.7 mil­lion for Brat. Ad­di­tional spend­ing by out­side groups was close to $4.2 mil­lion for each can­di­date, ac­cord­ing to OpenSe­

Fifty-eight per­cent of Span­berger’s money came from out of state, com­pared with 47 per­cent for Brat.

Nearly $3.87 mil­lion was spent on pro-Span­berger or anti-Brat me­dia buys, ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project, com­pared with $2.98 mil­lion on pro-Brat or an­tiS­pan­berger me­dia buys.

Span­berger was among can­di­dates na­tion­ally who got spe­cial help from the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. Part of her strat­egy was to cam­paign on solv­ing prob­lems re­gard­less of party; Span­berger cam­paign lit­er­a­ture did not men­tion she was a Demo­crat. With her base ea­ger to vote be­cause of Trump, the strat­egy was de­signed to avoid en­er­giz­ing Brat’s base.

Her cam­paign strat­egy was crafted by Delacey Skin­ner and David Eichen­baum, po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants whose past clients in­cluded Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Brat, a mem­ber of the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus, ar­gued that Span­berger was lib­eral and would be a rub­ber stamp for the agenda of House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

A video clip from their lone de­bate, held in Culpeper, went vi­ral. Af­ter de­fend­ing her­self from Brat’s at­tacks ty­ing her to Pelosi in her clos­ing ar­gu­ment, she ex­claimed, “Abi­gail Span­berger is my name!”

Span­berger plans to hold open pub­lic meet­ings in each of the dis­trict’s 10 coun­ties.

“My mes­sage to peo­ple who didn’t vote for me is I want to rep­re­sent them. I want to be ac­count­able to them. I am go­ing to do what’s best for the dis­trict and what’s best for this coun­try,” she said.

“I know I can’t make ev­ery­one happy all the time. That in­cludes peo­ple who voted for me. But what I can do is ... lis­ten to peo­ple and be trans­par­ent about what it is that I am do­ing, and why. And do the things that I said I was go­ing to do.”

As far as her po­lit­i­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties, she said, “I’m a Demo­crat gen­er­ally speak­ing . ... I align with the Demo­cratic Party. That is not to say that they’re the ex­clu­sive party of good ideas. I don’t think that’s the case.”

Among those who have called her to con­grat­u­late her are for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, and Pelosi, whom Span­berger has said she will not sup­port for speaker.

“I do be­lieve that we need new lead­er­ship driv­ing the con­ver­sa­tion in Wash­ing­ton” to more ef­fec­tively ad­dress is­sues, she said.

Brat called her Wed­nes­day to con­cede. “He was kind and cor­dial and he con­grat­u­lated me, and we had a short but good con­ver­sa­tion. And I ap­pre­ci­ated his call and I ap­pre­ci­ated his words.”

Next week, Span­berger, 39, heads to ori­en­ta­tion in Wash­ing­ton, a city where at the age of 16 she was a page to Sen. Chuck Robb, D-Va.

Among mem­bers of Congress she looks for­ward to work­ing with are two women who up­ended Repub­li­can in­cum­bents on Tues­day: Elaine Luria, who beat Rep. Scott Tay­lor in Hamp­ton Roads; and Jen­nifer Wex­ton, who beat Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock in North­ern Vir­ginia.

“I’m grate­ful for peo­ple putting their trust in me,” she said. “I am hon­ored to have the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent this dis­trict.”

Abi­gail Span­berger


Rep.-elect Abi­gail Span­berger, D-7th, spoke with com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Justin Jones in­side her cam­paign of­fice in Hen­rico County on Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.