After Virginia Democrats flipped three House seats in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are trying to reclaim them in some of the most highly anticipated swing races this year.
But it appears to be an uphill climb, with a Washington Post poll showing 50 percent of likely voters supporting Democrats in congressional races compared with 43 percent supporting Republicans.
In the historically red 7th and 2nd districts, first-term Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria are trying to fend off attacks from their Republican challengers over their votes to impeach President Trump and their support for various gun-control measures.
The Cook Political Report recently shifted the races in both districts from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.” And the 5th District, which Trump won by 11?points in 2016, appears to be within reach for Democrat Cameron Webb, as he and Republican Bob Good lay out drastically different visions in their bid for the open seat.
Along with Luria and Spanberger, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) also flipped a seat in 2018. But the race in that increasingly blue district is considered far less competitive, despite an aggressive challenge from political newcomer Aliscia Andrews (R).
In the rest of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, the incumbents are heavily favored. Here is a summary of the races on the ballot:
1st District: Wittman vs. Rashid
Rep. Rob Wittman (R), who has held his seat since 2007, faces activist Qasim Rashid (D), a former pro bono lawyer with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, in a race that has focused heavily on broadband Internet expansion, health care and environmental issues.
Wittman supports a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and has tried to frame Rashid, who supports Medicare-for-all, as too radical.
A former state environmental health specialist, Wittman supports offshore wind energy and has prioritized conservation of wetlands, fish habitats and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Rashid is further to the left on climate issues, supporting the Green New Deal.
Wittman co-chairs the House Rural Broadband Caucus and backs a public-private partnership model to bridge the digital divide. Rashid, by contrast, put forth a plan to make broadband a public utility and allow municipalities to create their own broadband authorities.
Rashid did not report any income as an attorney over the past two years and drew criticism from the state GOP for instead taking more than $18,000 in campaign fundraising money as a salary, which is legal. He said he needed to access health care through the campaign.
2nd District: Luria vs. Taylor
A former Navy commander, Luria has focused on military and veterans’ issues, including combat readiness of Navy aircraft carriers, expanding access to Veterans Affairs medical care for those exposed to toxic chemicals and cutting a tax hike on survivors benefits for Gold Star families.
Luria is focused on small-business aid during the pandemic, as well as the agricultural and aquacultural needs of the rural Eastern Shore.
Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and focused on increasing transparency in Veterans Affairs leadership. He strongly supports Trump’s agenda, gun rights and law enforcement but has found common ground with Democrats on some issues. He supported both Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration protection for undocumented residents brought to the United States as children, and LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. He also backed Trump’s transgender military ban.
David Foster, another Navy veteran, is on the ballot as an independent candidate.
3rd District: Scott vs. Collick
Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D), in Congress for 27 years, faces political newcomer John W. Collick Jr., a Marine veteran and former immigration officer. Scott, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, has focused on workers’ protections during the pandemic, food insecurity among families who rely on free school meals and updating infrastructure so schools can reopen safely.
He has long advocated for fair wages, including for imprisoned people, and favors raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and making college more affordable.
Collick, a Republican, also lists education as a top priority but differs from Scott in his support for school choice. He wants tougher oversight of people who overstay visas and supports using biometrics to track who enters the country. Collick also prioritizes increasing the size of the Navy and creating jobs in shipyards, an integral part of the 3rd District’s economy.
4th District: McEachin vs. Benjamin
Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D), a former state lawmaker elected to Congress in 2016, faces Republican Leon Benjamin, a minister who has served as an informal evangelical adviser to Trump. McEachin, too, is an ordained minister.
In a district that includes Richmond, which saw sustained protests against police brutality this summer, the candidates differ on police reform, with McEachin supporting a ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, among other things, and Benjamin calling for more officers to boost public safety.
McEachin has put forth legislation to make solar energy affordable to low-income families and create jobs through offshore wind energy.
Benjamin aligns himself with Trump’s “America First” agenda.
5th District: Webb vs. Good
Webb, a lawyer and doctor, faces off against Good, a former Liberty University fundraising official, in what observers say may be one of the most surprising races in Virginia and nationally. Good’s platform is closely aligned with Trump’s agenda. He pledges to be tough on illegal immigration and crime and opposes “radical left” ideas such as Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal. Good also espouses strict social conservatism, opposing same-sex marriage and prioritizing protection of religious freedoms over LGBTQ rights.
Webb is more of a centrist, pledging to work with Republicans on issues such as lowering prescription drug costs and creating renewable energy jobs. He wants to overhaul the criminal justice system and favors a public health insurance option. And he touts his background as a health policy professor to inform his position on managing the pandemic.
Although Trump won the district by 11 percentage points four years ago, Webb has generated significant attention and has vastly outraised Good.
6th District: Cline vs. Betts
Cline has embraced fiscal conservatism while focusing on infrastructure, including the expansion of broadband access and federal funding to improve the Interstate 81 corridor without raising taxes. He voted against the Democrats’ $1.5 trillion infrastructure package.
Betts, a recent law school graduate, has said he would prioritize reducing student debt and eliminating interest rates on student loans. He supports a public health insurance option.
7th District: Spanberger vs. Freitas
Incumbent Spanberger, a former CIA officer and U.S. Postal Service investigator, takes on Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), a former Army Green Beret with a libertarian streak. Spanberger has prioritized issues affecting rural Americans, such as broadband expansion, soil and water conservation, and lowering the costs of prescription drugs.
She says her intelligence background informs her positions on matters of national security, including the dangers of foreign interference in elections. She is an outspoken proponent of gun violence prevention measures, including universal background checks and extreme-risk protective orders.
Freitas, by contrast, is an ardent gun-rights advocate running on a platform of minimal government intervention. He backs repealing the Affordable Care Act and leaving health-care reform to the free markets. He also supports school choice and certain criminal justice reforms that have appealed to libertarians, such as decriminalizing marijuana and overhauling civil asset forfeiture.
8th District: Beyer vs. Jordan
As the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, Beyer has spoken out against tax policy that adversely affects federal civilian employees and military personnel and has pushed for better federal workplace protections and to extend unemployment benefits in the pandemic.
Beyer is also heavily focused on climate change, renewable energy and gun violence and suicide prevention.
Jordan’s far-right platform advocates for immediate deportation of those entering the country illegally, “stopping socialism,” opposition to abortion and support for gun ownership.
9th District: Griffith
Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R), in office since 2011, is running unopposed. Griffith, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is a staunch opponent of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, particularly those affecting the coal industry. He has prioritized protecting Social Security and Medicare, lowering prescription drug costs and eliminating fees affecting smaller pharmacists in rural areas.
10th District: Wexton vs. Andrews
Wexton has prioritized gun violence prevention, pay parity and worker protections for federal employees, and housing and shelter protections for LGBTQ people.
In a district with a sizable population of Uighurs, she also shepherded legislation intended to ensure U.S. companies are not importing goods that are a product of Uighur forced labor in China.
Andrews wants to prioritize national and border security, supporting Trump’s wall along the Mexican border and boosting resources for federal law enforcement.
She said she supports -anti-union “right to work” laws because organizing hurts small businesses, and opposed coronavirus shutdowns out of concern for small businesses.
11th District: Connolly vs. Anantatmula
Connolly, who oversees government operations on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, emerged as the Postal Service’s most vocal protector earlier this year, leading fierce questioning of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over policy overhauls that slowed the mail and could threaten the election.
Connolly has prioritized retirement security, addressing the opioid epidemic and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. An opponent of oil drilling off the Virginia coast or in wildlife refuges, he supports the Green New Deal.
Anantatmula, an Indian immigrant and naturalized citizen, prioritizes school choice, aid for small businesses, fighting human trafficking and opposing sanctuary cities.