Your browser does not support JavaScript With Strong Midterm Effect Looming, Democrats Eye First Congressional District - Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy - Christopher Newport University With Strong Midterm Effect Looming, Democrats Eye First Congressional District
Skip navigation

Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

February 5, 2018

With Strong Midterm Effect Looming, Democrats Eye First Congressional District

State / Elections / Midterm

Virginia Congressional District 1

Although no doubt a long shot, the possibility of a stronger than normal midterm effect in this fall’s congressional elections has attracted a strong field of challengers for the June primary for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Virginia’s 1st District contains areas such as Prince William, Stafford, Fredericksburg, and Jamestown.

The incumbent Republican is Rob Wittman. Serving in a safely Republican district, Wittman, currently in his fifth term, has yet to experience a competitive general election.

In 2016, he won reelection by over 23 points and outperformed Donald Trump by over 11 points. Wittman may have difficulty separating himself from Trump after voting with 87% of the time. Democrats will work hard to tie him, and his fellow Republicans, to the unpopular president in their effort to pick up the 24 seats they need to take control of the House of Representatives.

There are currently four candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination: Edwin Santana, John Suddarth, Ryan Sawyers, and Vangie Williams. Each of these candidates to convince 1st District voters that they present the biggest challenge to Rob Wittman’s reelection bid. The obstacles that any challenger faces to an incumbent include fundraising deficiencies, lack of experience in public office, and a lack of name recognition. Over the course of the next few months, one should expect these campaigns to ramp up their efforts to demonstrate they are best capable of offsetting these incumbency advantages.

Ryan Sawyers is the Chairman of Prince William Public Schools. Public concern about college debt and rising tuition prices might provide Sawyers an opportunity to use his experience to his advantage in the primary (and potentially the general election). Besides education, healthcare and women’s reproductive rights will be other issues addressed by Sawyers—a common theme among Democrats in this year’s cycle. Sawyers currently leads the field of Democratic nominees in fundraising, reporting $111,000 last reporting cycle. Sawyers’ experience in public office may lend him a fundraising advantage that his counterparts lack, and could prove decisive as the primary approaches.

John Suddarth is another Democrat vying for the Democratic nomination in the 2018 primary. Suddarth is an Army veteran and a self-described “progressive Democrat.” Suddarth’s campaign centerpiece is transforming American healthcare to a single-payer system, an idea that has become more popular in the United States over time. Suddarth argues that our healthcare system harms our international economic competitiveness, and it is nearly impossible to address our economy without also addressing healthcare, with single-payer being the optimal system. Other issues Suddarth is passionate about are women’s issues (fixing the gender pay gap and protecting women’s reproductive rights), raising the national minimum wage and campaign finance reform. Suddarth has also been endorsed by Tom Hicks, who was formerly in the race before dropping out. Suddarth’s campaign has reported that they have raised almost $27,000.

Edwin Santana is a former Marine who is also running as a progressive Democrat. A major focus of Santana’s campaign is on sexual assault and harassment reforms. Santana’s four-point plan consists of addressing consent reform on college campuses, instituting education programs in middle school, transforming the way sexual assault in the military is reported, and funding expert-led research projects to come up with new procedures and protocols for victims of sexual crimes. Santana also focuses heavily on opposing federal spending cuts to protect the environment, as well as making healthcare more affordable for all Americans. According to VPAP, Santana has reported raising $23,000.

Vangie Williams is the last Democrat that entered the primary and the only woman in the field.  Williams’ campaign focuses on what she calls her “common sense” agenda of healthcare reform, immigration reform, and the economy. At a recent candidate forum, Williams distinguished herself from her competitors as a conservative Democrat based on her work experience. Williams’ main initiative is her “INVEST” tax reform idea, which stipulates that veterans, enlisted military, security officers and teachers should be exempt from paying taxes on the first $50,000 of their annual income. Williams has raised about $10,000.

Whichever campaign successfully secures the nomination will face an uphill battle in the general election, as Rob Wittman has proven to be a very difficult incumbent to unseat. The Wason Center will continue to provide updates on the status of this race leading up to the primary and beyond.

Report a problem
Version 3.4