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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

January 24, 2018

CD 2 Draws Democratic Challengers

National / Midterm / Elections / State

Virginia Congressional District 2

One need look no further than Virginia’s 2nd congressional district for evidence that Democrats sense vulnerability for congressional Republicans due to President Trump’s unpopularity.  Several Democratic candidates have come out to challenge Rep. Scott Taylor, the Republican congressman who currently holds the seat. Virginia’s second congressional district encompasses Accomack, Northampton counties, Virginia Beach, and parts of Norfolk, Hampton, and James City County.

Although early in the process, there are two clear front runners for the nomination, and they are both women: Karen Mallard, a schoolteacher and Democratic Party activist, and Elaine Luria, a retired naval officer and small business owner. Luria is a twenty-year U.S. Navy veteran and is the owner of Norfolk’s Mermaid, where she creates and sells miniature clay mermaids that represent Norfolk’s symbol. This will be her first run for elected office. “I am running for Congress because we desperately need leaders in Washington who will ‘Be Good. Do Good Work’ to create solutions that serve all Americans” Luria said at her campaign launch at the beginning of January. At the launch, Luria was joined by two endorsers, State Sen. Lynnwood Lewis and Dave Belote, the former Chair of the Virginia Beach Democrats, himself a former candidate in the race until he decided to drop out to take care of his ailing mother.

Mallard, also making her first run for public office, has taught in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake for 30 years and cited Betsy DeVos’s appointment as Secretary of Education as the motivating factor for her decision to run for Congress. “For teachers, every failure of social policy is something we see in the classroom every day,” Mallard said. Mallard has received some national media attention due to her support from The Peoples House Project, which aims to prop up working and middle-class candidates who have less access to the resources needed to finance a run for Congress.

Also among the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination is Shaun Brown, a Hampton business owner. Brown ran against Rep. Taylor in 2016 as the Democratic congressional challenger and lost by nearly 23 percentage points. Brown’s bid to recapture the party’s nomination has been complicated by federal fraud charges, charges she strongly denies.

Other Democratic candidates seeking the 2nd District nomination include Garry Hubbard, a retired construction company owner, Ernest Porter, a Louisa County resident, and David Nygaard, owner of David Nygaard Fine Jewelers in Virginia Beach.

On January 18, 2018, Peninsula Voices for Change, a progressive, grassroots organization based out of Hampton Roads, held a forum with the Democratic candidates. All candidates were present except for Elaine Luria, who was unable to attend due to a previously scheduled meeting with the Williamsburg Democrats.

The forum was moderated by Christopher Newport University’s Dr. Quentin Kidd, Dean of Social Sciences. The forum served as a chance for the candidates to introduce themselves and their policies to constituents. Many topics were discussed throughout the forum, including healthcare, education, the opioid crisis, the federal government shutdown, sustainable energy initiatives, and the legality of marijuana use.

Whichever candidate secures the party’s nomination in the primary will face incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor in the November 2018 general election. Despite national ties running in favor of Democrats Taylor is favored to win reelection according to the most recent ratings from Cook Political Report.

Although Taylor is not a so-called Never Trump Republican Taylor has been careful to position himself as a centrist, and self-described Independent thinker and recently came out against President Trump’s executive order authorizing gas and oil drilling off of America’s coasts, including Virginia. With his background as a Navy SEAL, and his shrewd positioning, Taylor is not expected to cede his seat without a fight, and will look to capitalize on military voters in the 2nd. Taylor’s move to the center has helped invoke a primary challenge from the Right. Mary Jones, a former James City County Board member, has criticized Taylor on not being a strong enough Trump supporter.

The Democratic and Republican primary elections are scheduled to be held on June 12, 2018. In the month leading up to this race, I will be covering developments and interviewing candidates.

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