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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

October 17, 2018

Better Know a Congressional District: VA’s Fightin’ 7th

Elections / Midterm / National

Virginia Congressional District 7

Running for Virginia’s 7th congressional district is incumbent Representative David Brat (R) and former C.I.A. operations officer Abigail Spanberger (D). Rep. David Brat was first elected to this seat in 2014, defeating then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a stunning upset in the Republican primary for the central Virginia district. Throughout his tenure in the House, much of Brat’s work has centered around his involvement in the Freedom Caucus and work surrounding economic and fiscal policy. Before serving in Congress, Brat worked on the Joint Advisory Board of Economists for both Republican and Democratic governors, was an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, and was elected as the president of the Virginia Association of Economists.

Democratic nominee Abigail Spanberger also comes with a decorated past in public service. Spanberger began her career as a federal law enforcement officers for the US Postal Inspection Service before joining the C.I.A. as an Operations Officer. Then, in 2014, Spanberger joined the private sector, working for EAB – Royall & Company. During the Democratic primary election, Spanberger received 68% of the vote, while her competitor, Dan War, received 27.32% of the vote. Rep. Brat ran unopposed in the Republican primary election. The 7th district has been held by Republicans since 1971. In practice, this should be a reliably Republican district, however, it has been marked as a Toss Up” district by almost every polling site, with the exception of the Wason Center who projects it as a “Will Flip to Democrat” seat and 538 who predicts that the 7th district will Lean Republican.

Previous election results show that the 7th district consistently votes conservatively, with President Trump carrying the district by 7 points, Romney carrying the district by 11 points, and Republicans carrying the district by 15 points in 2016. Messaging around Brat’s campaign focuses on his heavy background in economics and fiscal policy. He emphasizes that he is the only member of Congress with a Ph.D. in economics, arguing that he “is uniquely qualified to tackle the current budget crisis…in America.” His other policy proposals seek to drive a wedge between him and his opponent on key issues, such as reducing taxes, decreasing government involvement in healthcare, and addressing immigration policy.

Messaging around Spanberger’s campaign emphasizes her extensive background in law enforcement and the C.I.A., arguing that she is committed to advocating for the public instead of partisan ideals. In an interview she conducted with NBC12, Spanberger notes that she would hold a town hall in each county in the 7th district during her first year of office, highlighting the fact that Brat has not held a town hall since 2017. Her top policy proposals include strengthening Obamacare, fighting for gun violence protection, and protecting welfare programs. Notable campaign endorsements include The Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, and Governor Ralph Northam.

As reported by the Federal Election Commission on June 30, 2018, both candidates have raised similar amounts of funding for their campaign, with Brat having raised $1,332,894.18 and Spanberger having raised $1,351,549.69. Voters can expect these figures to rise significantly as the race picks up and garners more national attention.

Brat and Spanberger participated in their first debate on October 15th. The debate can be viewed here.

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