What makes Virginia’s most competitive congressional race so close?

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia’s 2nd District, is in the political fight of her life, facing a tough challenge from Republican Jen Kiggans in what is widely considered the most competitive House race in Virginia this year.

The most recent polling, conducted by Christopher Newport University, put the two Navy veterans each at 45% of the vote, with 8% undecided.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the race a toss-up.

“Democrats and Republicans are investing an immense amount of money in this race because of the possibility that this may be one of those key pivoting districts in America which determines the party that controls Congress,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor with the University of Mary Washington.

The Virginia Public Access Project reports that more than $15 million has been spent on advertising in the race.

So what exactly makes the Virginia Beach-anchored district so competitive?

“One of the key issues is the way the district is drawn,” said Farnsworth.

The district shifted during last year’s redistricting process, moving away from Norfolk and covering more rural areas, making it slightly less favorable to Democrats.

“It has created a more appealing opportunity for Republicans,” Farnsworth said.

The 7th District race between Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger and Republican challenger Yesli Vega is also highly affected by redistricting. The DMV Download covered that race in its latest episode.

Back in the 2nd District, Kiggans is a state senator with more political experience than many other candidates running for office during this election cycle.

“She’s not all-in on some of the Donald Trump agenda items, and that gives her a bit more credibility with people who are not reflexively Republican,” said Farnsworth.

Luria is also possibly vulnerable for being a very public face on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building, often putting the blame for the incident squarely on former President Donald Trump.

“President Trump tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power,” Luria announced during one of the committee’s hearings. “He betrayed his oath of office.”

“That’s creating a lot of resentment among Republicans who are upset about the way that committee has proceeded,” Farnsworth said. “When you put these things together, you see why this race is effectively the closest thing we have in Virginia to a dead heat.”

The 10th District in Northern Virginia is also being watched closely, considered to potentially be competitive this year.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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