The Choice in Virginia and DC: Stay the Course or Embrace Change
WASHINGTON — Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the 2021 gubernatorial contest has Republicans dreaming of pulling the state’s congressional delegation solidly back into the red column.
This year the smart money says both Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who currently represents the state’s 7th Congressional District, and Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who is the incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District, are in for tough reelection campaigns.
The latest ratings from the Cook Political Report puts both in the “Democratic Toss-Up” category, while the website InsideElections rates the Luria race a toss-up and Spanberger’s district tilting Democratic.
And the GOP thinks it can take out Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., who represents the suburban 10th Congressional District just outside of Washington.
On Tuesday, the vast majority of primaries will select the Republican candidate in these and other congressional contests, the winners going on to compete against the incumbent in the November general election.
In the 2nd Congressional District, the Republicans hoping to face Luria in November are Andrew Baan, Jarome Bell, L. Tommy Altman, III, and Virginia State Sen. Jen Kiggans.
Baan is an Iraq War/Bronze Star veteran, retired Navy captain, former prosecutor, program manager for a defense contractor and cybersecurity consultant.
Bell retired as chief petty officer from the United States Navy after serving 27 years. He opened a small business helping high school graduates obtain college athletic scholarships.
As for Kiggans, she also has a military background, having served as a Navy pilot, and, in addition to being in the state Senate, she also works as a nurse practitioner.
In the Senate she serves on a number of committees, including local government, general laws and technology, and rehabilitation and social services.
Altman is a disabled veteran who owns a small business with his wife in Virginia Beach.
In Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican voters will decide who goes up against incumbent Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott.
Hoping to unseat the enormously popular Scott are Ted Engquist, a licensed minister and Terry Namkung, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years and now works as a defense strategy consultant for the military.
In the 6th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Ben Cline, who has served his district since 2019, will face Merritt Hale, a former Navy officer who works as a systems engineer supporting the intelligence community.
The 7th Congressional District is the Republican race to see who will challenge Abigail Spanberger.
The candidates include State Senator Bryce Reeves, who in addition to representing his district since 2012, also works as an insurance agent. He is also a former narcotics detective in Prince William County and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army.
Then there’s Crystal Vanuch, who represents the Rock Hill district on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. She has been the chair of that body for the past two years.
Also hoping lightning will strike is David Ross, a retired Marine who is a country board member, in his case, the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
Derrick Anderson is a former Special Forces Green Beret who served six tours of duty, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and various countries throughout the Middle East. He earned his law degree from Georgetown in 2019. He then clerked for a variety of federal judges working on civil and criminal cases.
Yesli Vega served on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and was the first Latina supervisor there. In addition,Vega served as a police officer with the City of Alexandria’s Police Department and the Manassas Park Police Department.
Virginia’s 8th Congressional District is the only district holding a Democratic primary. Competing in that contest are incumbent Donald Beyer, Jr., who has held the office since 2015 and is running for his fifth term. He is also the former lieutenant governor of Virginia.
He is competing against Victoria Virasingh, an Arlington native who worked in the tech industry and is currently a county board-appointed member of the Economic Development Commission.
In D.C., Bowser is Looking Strong
In the District of Columbia, incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser looks well positioned to become only the second mayor in Washington’s history to serve three terms.
Hoping to stand in the way of that milestone are DC Councilmembers Robert White and Trayon White and former ANC Commissioner James Butler, who unsuccessfully challenged Bowser in 2018.
While all three have their specific visions of the city’s future, their main pitch to voters has been quite similar —that Bowser simply hasn’t risen to the challenges that impact the city.
Bowser counters such criticism by banking on her experience managing the city’s 35,000-person workforce and effectively steering the district through a number of crises including the pandemic and the unrest associated with the Trump administration.
She’s also gotten strong endorsements from The Washington Post and others that, while acknowledging the challenges that continue to plague the city, also argue such circumstances demand a seasoned leader to deal with them.
According to the Post. “Bowser ably navigated the city through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, faced down threats from the Trump administration, made important inroads into such seemingly intractable problems as homelessness and pioneered historic investments in housing and health care.
“She is the first to identify the work that needs to be done to confront an increase in crime, continue education reform and guide the city’s recovery from the pandemic. Not only does she have experience in tackling these problems but also she has well-thought-out approaches to the issues. The same cannot be said of challengers who are thin on accomplishments and have campaigned on platitudes,” the city’s newspaper of record said.
Bowser is most vulnerable on the issues of crime and affordable housing.
The incumbent mayor’s critics contend that while Bowser touts her investments in the Housing Production Trust Fund — an amount slated to rise to nearly$450 million next year – the money and its impact aren’t reaching those most in need.
Similarly, they say, Bowser hasn’t properly managed several crime prevention programs established in recent years, and has leaned too heavily on hiring more police officers.
For her part, candidate Bowser has been particularly focused in beating back the challenges and critiques of White and Trayon, stating that while her opponents claim to have ideas and visions of the future, she’s seen little evidence of their having acted on them during their two terms on the city council.
Another interesting race in the District is the open seat for attorney general.
City Councilman Kenyan McDuffie was seen as the front-runner in the race to succeed Attorney General Karl Racine, who is retiring from public office after two terms, but he was disqualified from the ballot.
That made the Democratic primary for the position a three-way race among Ryan Jones, Bruce Spiva and Brian Schwalb.
All three candidates largely say they’d like to build on Racine’s record, particularly when it comes to consumer protection and juvenile crime. Each has been trying to distinguish himself from his counterparts in the race based on experience — which has been tough given two of the three attended the same law school — Harvard — and all have been longtime members of the district’s legal community.
Dan can be reached at d[email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.
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