HENRICO, Va. – Democrat Abigail Spanberger defeated Republican Rep. Dave Brat Tuesday night in an upset victory in a district a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat to Congress since 1968.
The district runs from the Richmond suburbs north to more rural areas near Culpepper and Spotslvania.
Spanberger, a former CIA official, won the seat with 50.1 of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting, one of the victories that helped Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.
Ben Slone, chairman of the district’s Republican Party, said because of the strong conservative character of the district, the race could be considered a bellwether for Democrats’ strategy, which was to focus on issues like health care and distaste for President Donald Trump’s polarizing rhetoric leading up to Election Night.
Spanberger was a federal law enforcement officer for the US Postal Inspection Service before joining the CIA as an operations officer.
“I have no doubt that the members of Congress will recognize her talents,” said Gwen Sarsfield, a volunteer for Spanberger’s campaign.
Spanberger’s win was made possible by her support from moderate voters in the Richmond suburbs drawn to her stance on supporting the Affordable Care Act and strong health care coverage as well as her national security experience.
“She had a big mix of Republican and Democrat and uses the best of both,” said first-time voter Lillian Piett.
Brat, who gained national notoriety for his defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014, won the district in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. Trump underperformed Brat, winning 50 percent of the vote.
“My hat’s off to her for wanting to get involved in our political system,” said Pam Kiser, a supporter of Spanberger. “It’ll take people like her to change it.”
“There’s anger boiling underneath the surface and people want to see change. This is the way to do it,”said Jason Funkhauser, a 34-year-old high school government teacher in Goochland, Virginia.
The head of the Republican Committee in the 7th Congressional District, not surpiringly voted for Republican Rep. David Brat, who facea a serious challenge from Democrat Abigail Spanberg.“I don’t look at politicians and their messages. I look at what they bring in support of a bill,”Ben Slone said.
Slone also praised Brat’s background in economics.
“Are there any economists in Congress? No.”
Susan Francis, 59, from Richmond, Virginia, works at a local travel agency and is a volunteer for Democratic congressional candidate Abigail Spanberger in VA-07. Susan started volunteering for the campaign after Spanberger visited her office.
“She was so genuine,” Susan said.The issues that concern Susan the most are health care and education, and she “wants to see racism addressed in a meaningful way.”
“I worry about someone who says they’re a nationalist,” she said.
Shekinah Veeravalli and Lillian Piett, 18, students in Short Pump, both voted for the first time Tuesday.
Each said they voted for Democrat first-time candidate Abigail Spanberger for the congressional seat now held by Republican Rep. Dave Brat, who is trying to win a second term.
“She had a big mix of Democrat and Republican,” Piett said, and used “the best of both.”
Sarah Wark, 33, a third grade teacher from Short Pump, Virginia, supported Democrat Abigail Spanberger in her effort to unseat Republican Rep. Dave Brat because of her stance on social issues and civil rights.“I feel like she represents everyone,” Wark said.