Spanberger projected to win in near-sweep for Va. incumbents in Congress

The Associated Press on Sunday projected that U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger will be reelected to her seat in Virginia’s 7th District after a dayslong count of votes that was prolonged by mail-in votes in the midst of the pandemic.

Spanberger, a Democrat, is nearly 8,000 votes ahead of Republican Del. Nick Freitas in the strip-shaped district in central Virginia that includes Culpeper, Chesterfield, Henrico and Nottoway counties and skirts to the west of Richmond.

It was Spanberger’s first reelection challenge. Freitas led for much of Tuesday night, but Spanberger closed the margin steadily through Wednesday and took the lead late Wednesday afternoon, by about 5,000 votes — 227,540 (50.49%) to 222,406 (49.35%).

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, Spanberger declared victory:

This race was notable in part for the amount of money spent on it: As of a month ago, almost $2 million more was spent on this congressional race than the presidential race in Virginia.

“It was always projected to be a competitive race,” Mark Rozelle, dean of the Schar School of Policy at George Mason University, told WTOP on Wednesday afternoon.

Spanberger won in 2018 in a Democratic wave year, he explained, but the 7th voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and Spanberger voted for his impeachment earlier this year. Trump’s presence on the ballot likely drove Republican turnout in the district, Rozelle said.

A host of local races and bond issues, as well as two amendments to the Virginia Constitution, are also on the ballot. You can read about them here.

All results are unofficial until they have been certified by the Virginia Department of Elections Nov. 16.

Spanberger’s apparent result means that the only non-incumbent to win a seat in Congress from Virginia was a member of the incumbent’s own party. The partisan breakdown remains seven Democrats to four Republicans.


In other races:

In the 5th Congressional District, which stretches from the North Carolina border through Charlottesville and into parts of Fauquier County, Democrat Cameron Webb, a doctor, lawyer and a public health expert at the University of Virginia, has conceded the race to Republican Bob Good, a former Liberty University official.

With all precincts reporting, Good has about 53.4% of the vote to Webb’s 46.3%.

Rozelle said winning the 5th was “a dream for the Democrats,” and their hope came from the possibility that Good leaned too far to the right in a general election.

The Republicans nominated Good in an upset over incumbent Denver Riggleman. Riggleman had angered arch-conservatives in Virginia for, among other things, officiating at a same-sex wedding. Webb held a slim lead in most polling this autumn.

But a very strong turnout in rural areas, again likely energized by Trump’s presence on the ballot, meant “it was likely” Good would win out, Rozelle said.

NBC News said, “Few congressional elections with the potential to flip a seat in November show the country’s widening political divide” like the 5th District.

This will be the third straight election that has produced a new representative from the district. The district includes Buckingham and Nelson counties, identified by Ballotpedia as Pivot Counties where the presidential vote went to Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but Republican Donald Trump in 2016.

In the 8th Congressional District, which comprises Arlington County and portions of Fairfax County, as well as all of Alexandria City and Falls Church City, Democratic incumbent Don Beyer has been projected to win his fourth term, defeating Republican challenger Jeff Jordan, an Army veteran and military contractor.

In the 10th District, Jennifer Wexton was projected as the winner over Republican challenger Aliscia Andrews at about 10:30 p.m. It’s Wexton’s first House reelection campaign in the district, which includes Loudoun County, along with parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Board of Elections said the initial number of votes in the 10th district was accidentally reported incorrectly due to human error.

When election officials spotted the error they quickly corrected the total vote count.

The county board says it continues to receive mail-in ballots and is expecting tens of thousands more ballots before the Friday deadline.

It expects to report the remainder of the mail-in results on Saturday.

In the 11th District, which includes Arlington County, portions of Fairfax County and all of Alexandria City and Falls Church City, Democratic incumbent Gerry Connolly, a member of the House since 2008, has been projected to have defeated Republican first-time candidate Manga Anantatmula.

Farther out from the District, U.S. Rep. Bob Wittman, a Republican, has defeated repeat Democratic challenger Qasim Rashid in the 1st District; Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott has held off a challenge from Republican challenger John Collick in the 3rd District, and Rep. Morgan Griffith won his unopposed race in the 9th.

Meanwhile, the 2nd District has been called in favor of incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, fending off Republican challenger Scott Taylor and independent David Foster.

In the 4th District, Democratic incumbent Donald McEachin has defeated Republican challenger Leon Benjamin.

And in the U.S. Senate race, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, was projected shortly after the polls closed to win reelection over Republican challenger Daniel Gade, the first of the commonwealth’s congressional races to be called.

Gade, however, did not concede the race, calling The Associated Press “fake news.” As of about 10 p.m. Wednesday, Warner had 55.8% of the vote to Gade’s 44.2%

Democrats have not lost a statewide election in Virginia since 2009. Warner is a former governor and current vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He had a massive cash advantage and scared off well-known Republicans from running against him. The coronavirus pandemic and the presidential contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden left little room for voters’ attention.

And the highly contagious nature of the disease prevented both candidates from the stumping that defines traditional campaigns.

At about 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, The Associated Press projected that former Vice President Joe Biden would win the state over President Donald Trump.

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli and Zeke Hartner, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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