The other day, I took a look at the Republican candidates for US House of Representatives in VA10, where we need to make sure we reelect Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) this November. Today, let’s focus our attention on VA07, where Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) is the incumbent and does not face a primary challenge.
This district, after the 2021 redistricting, leans went 52.0% for Glenn Youngkin in 2021, although previously it went narrowly “blue” – 55.7% for Tim Kaine in 2018, 51.8% for Mark Herring in 2017, 48.1%-45.9% for Hillary Clinton in 2016, etc. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, VA07 is a D+2 district, which basically means it leans slightly Democratic but is competitive, and could certainly go Republican, depending upon the political environment come the fall. The district is comprised of Prince William County (34.8%), Stafford County (19.7%), Spotsylvania County (18.0%), Culpeper County (6.8%), Orange County (4.9%), Caroline County (4.1%), Fredericksburg (3.8%), King George County (3.4%), Greene County (2.7%), Madison County (1.9%) and Albemarle County (0.02%).
As for the incumbent, Rep. Abigail Spanberger is from Glen Allen in Henrico County, which is no longer part of VA07 post-redistricting. So, presumably, Spanberger will be moving into VA07. Spanberger is a former CIA operations officer who was first elected to Congress in the 2018 “blue wave” election year, in which Spanberger narrowly defeated Rep. Dave Brat (R) by 2 points (50%-48%). Spanberger then narrowly (50.8%-49.0%) defeated Del. Nick Freitas (R) in 2020. Finally, note that Spanberger as of the end of 2021 had $3,035,779 “cash on hand,” compared to $224,911 for Republican candidate Bryce Reeves; and $212,289 for Republican candidate Derrick Anderson.
With that, the Republican candidates running for the VA07 GOP nomination (note: the Republican primary is on 6/21) are (in alphabetical order): Gary Adkins, Derrick Anderson, Gina Ciarcia, Michael Monteforte, Bryce Reeves, David Ross, Crystal Vanuch and Yesli Vega. See below for some information on each (ranked in descending order of “cash on hand” as of the end of 2021; note that these numbers are likely to change dramatically in the next filing, as some of these candidates just entered the race at the end of 2021), followed by some thoughts on which candidates are most/least right wing; the potentially toughest/weakest opponent for Rep. Spanberger; and who seems most likely to win the VA07 GOP nomination.
Bryce Reeves: According to the FEC, had $224,912 cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Reeves is a Virginia State Senator (SD17) based in Spotsylvania County, and also including all or parts of Orange County, Albemarle County, Louisa County, Fredericksburg, Culpeper County and Goochland County. The new VA07 is mostly based in Prince William and Stafford counties, which Reeves doesn’t represent in the State Senate, but also is made up 18.0% of Spotsylvania County, which gives Reeves somewhat of a base to run in the new congressional district. According to Reeves’ website, he is a “graduate from the Army’s Ranger School, earning his Ranger tab”; and also “served as a narcotics detective in Prince William County” (which comprises a significant chunk of the new VA07). Reeves has been endorsed by far-right Del. Nick Freitas. Reeves’ rhetoric is harsh and right wing, claiming (falsely and absurdly) that “Joe Biden and the radical left are pushing us to the brink”; that he’s “led the fight against the radical left” (what “radical left” is he talking about, exactly? certainly NOT Virginia Democrats!); that Rep. Spanberger is “hiding instead of leading” (nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as Rep. Spanberger is VERY much a leader); etc. On the issues, Reeves is hard right all the way, championing so-called “election integrity”; ranting (WILDLY falsely) that “the left is infecting our schools with anti-American ideals like Critical Race Theory and are more beholden to the teachers union than to students and their parents”; vowing to “fight against attempts to pass red flag laws, universal background checks, high magazine bans, and one gun a month laws”; railing against abortion; etc. In short, if Reeves wins the VA07 Republican nomination, Rep. Spanberger will have plenty of material to use in order to demonstrate that Reeves is far, FAR too extreme to represent this “purple” district.
Derrick Anderson: According to the FEC, had $212,289 cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per Anderson’s website, he is: “a native of Spotsylvania County, was in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech, and received his J.D. from Georgetown Law.” He also note that he is “a former Special Forces ‘Green Beret’ with 6 tours of duty overseas, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and various countries throughout the Middle East.” He “also served in the White House during President Trump’s Administration, where he worked in the Office of National Drug Control Policy.” On the issues, Anderson…doesn’t have an issues section on his website, but on his kickoff video, he focuses heavily on the military and foreign policy (particularly Afghanistan), claims that Rep. Spanberger “has been in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and the extreme progressive agenda of Washington Democrats”; that he’ll “stop their tax hikes and destructive socialist polices that are killing jobs and shrinking our economy…work to secure the border…stand with law enforcement…make sure our public schools teach our kids how to think, not what to think,” “defend our god-given rights to life and liberty, including the Second Amendment” and “continue to put America first.” In short…the guy is HARD right and very Trumpian.
Gary Adkins: According to the FEC, Adkins had no cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per his website, Adkins had “a distinguished 20-year career in the United States Air Force” and has resided in Stafford County since 1990. Adkins describes himself as “a Constitutional Conservative and a staunch pro-American…an independent thinker, a solutions seeker, and a non-politician…a fierce defender of liberty continually fighting to safeguard the rights and freedoms guaranteed by God and the U.S. Constitution and he is fighting daily to preserve our Constitutional Republic.” On the issues, Adkins says he will: “stand against any attempt to pass gun-control legislation that limits or bans ownership of weapons or ammunition”; “will aggressively fight against any effort to subjugate the citizens of the United States or surrender our rights to entities such as the United Nations or any global or regional organizations”; supports “a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act” (which he falsely claims is “socialist style”); He says he believes “marriage was instituted and ordained by God and is intended to be between one man and one woman”; that he is “totally 100% pro-life”; that “crossing the U.S. borders without proper authorization is a violation of law and must be treated accordingly”; etc. He also favors a MASSIVELY regressive tax system, including “replacement of the current progressive tax system by a ‘flat/fair tax’”; and “total elimination of the estate/inheritance/or so-called ‘death tax’.” In sum, Adkins is faaaar right all the way.
Gina Ciarcia: According to the FEC, had no cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per her website, Ciarcia “is the proud wife of a retired Marine officer and mother of five” who resides in Dumfries (Prince William County); and that “her Christian faith, her family, and her community have always been her top priorities.” On the issues, Ciarcia says: “Schools are a place for education, not indoctrination. Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other politically charged agendas have no place in our schools.”; that “Unborn babies and their mothers should be honored and protected. Taxpayers’ dollars should not fund abortions”; that she is “a proponent of our right to bear arms, and she will work tirelessly to ensure that right is fully realized by Virginians”; opposes what she calls “excessive spending, taxation, and regulations”; claims (falsely) that “the call to defund our police is a dangerous political maneuver which has led to skyrocketing crime rates across the nation”; etc. In other words…yep, you guessed it, another VA07 Republican candidate who’s hard-right all the way.
Michael Monteforte: According to the FEC, had no cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per his website, Monteforte says he’s lived in Spotsylvania County for 28 years, and that he’s “dedicated his 20+ year career to serving as a Federal Contractor for the Intelligence Community aiding the fight against terrorism and in support of National Security.” On the issues, Monteforte says he’s “passionate about protecting our future generations, 2nd Amendment, medical freedom and defending our liberties.” He also argues that “we must secure our borders and become a deterrent for those who fund and profit from human/child trafficking”; and that he “will fight against medical tyranny and support medical freedom.” So…another VA07 GOP candidate who’s very right wing. Sensing a pattern here?
David Ross: According to the FEC, had no cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per his website, “Retired United States Marine aviator David Ross is serving his third term on the [Spotsylvania] Board of Supervisors.” On the issues, Ross: opposes COVID mandates (“this is to include vaccines, masks, and any other ideas that may arise from federal government over-reach”); appears to support alternative treatments for COVID (“I will fight to keep your right to choose your desired medical treatment”); says he is “a life member of the NRA and personally have a concealed carry permit” and that “we must protect the 2nd amendment”; claims “parent’s rights have been infringed on for quite some time now”; favors a “balanced budget” and “limited government”; etc.
Crystal Vanuch: According to the FEC, had no cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per her website, Vanuch says she is “not a career politician,” is a “a small business owner” who “proudly represent[s] the Rock Hill District on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors and am currently serving as Chairman of the Board for the second year in a row, fighting for our conservative values.” In late February, Vanuch announced that she’s hired “Creative Direct,” the firm which “most recently led Winsome Sears successful campaign for Lt. Governor and also helped the House Republican Campaign Committee regain the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.” On the issues, she says: the “Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is non-negotiable”; wants to restore “election integrity”; is “100% pro-life and an unapologetic champion of the unborn”; wants to “finish building the wall” to stop illegal immigration; opposes “divisive curriculum like Critical Race Theory” and parents supposedly being “silenced by the woke cancel culture”; claims “woke cancel culture, mainstream media, and the far left threaten to silence anyone who disagrees with their viewpoints”; etc. In short…not a hint of moderation or centrism with Vanuch, who is FAR right and Trumpist all the way.
Yesli Vega: According to the FEC, had no cash on hand as of the end of 2021. Per her website, Vega describes herself as “a military wife, mother, and law enforcement officer, is the embodiment of the American Dream,” who was “[b]orn in Houston, Texas to Salvadoran immigrants fleeing civil war.” She says her “decision to enter the world of law enforcement came following a family tragedy perpetrated by local gang members in a case of mistaken identity.” In 2019, she was elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, while she “still serves as an Auxiliary Deputy in the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office and is an active member in her parents’ church.” Vega has been endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz. On the issues, Vega…yep, you guessed it, rails against “cancel culture” (“The effects of cancel culture upon our nation has been chilling”) and a supposed “small left-wing mob who find offense in everything”; also rips “the likes of AOC, ‘The Squad’ and many others in today’s Democrat Party”; etc. She argues that “our right to keep and bear arms must never be infringed”; opposes “ideologically based education that looks at everything through the divisive prism of race”; says she “strongly oppose[s] bills like HR1 which would allow the likes of Nancy Pelosi and AOC to dictate the way elections in Virginia are run” (which, of course, is NOT what HR1 would do…); is not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, which she falsely claims “made the cost of healthcare, anything but”; etc. In short, Vega is hard right all the way.
So those are the Republican candidates to take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger in VA07 this fall. Now, here are some thoughts, just from looking at the candidates’ websites, bios and fundraising numbers, regarding: a) how right wing these candidates are; b) who might be the toughest/weakest opponent for Rep. Spanberger; c) who seems most likely to win the Republican nomination…
How right wing are the candidates? It’s hard to rank them, since they’re all in a range of plain-old right wing to faaaar right wing. That includes the ones currently holding elective office (Vanuch, Vega, Reeves, Ross), which really shows where the current Republican Party’s collective head is at. Disturbing.
Who might be the toughest opponent for Rep. Abigail Spanberger this fall? In general, given that Prince William County makes up 34.8% of the district, it’s probably an advantage if you are from there (as are Ciarcia and Vega). However, Stafford County is the second-largest jurisdiction, so being from there (as are Adkins and Vanuch) might not be a major disadvantage. As for gender, it’s probably advantageous for Republicans to nominate a woman (Vega, Vanuch, Ciarcia) to run against Abigail Spanberger. And in terms of being an elected official, that list includes Vanuch, Vega, Reeves and Ross. So…the toughest candidates for Rep. Spanberger to face this fall might be Yesli Vega, Crystal Vanuch or Bryce Reeves? It’s hard to say, though…gotta see these candidates in action over the next few weeks. Also, given the information outlined above, no matter who VA07 Republicans nominate, there’s no question that Rep. Spanberger will have TONS of material to use against them, given how far right and “out there” they all are.
At the moment, who seems most likely to win the VA07 GOP nomination? The nomination will be decided using primary on 6/21, with no ranked-choice voting, so someone can win with a plurality, even a relatively small plurality. Just based on cash-on-hand numbers, name ID, endorsements, holding elective office, etc., I’d argue that are the frontrunners for the nomination are probably Vega, Vanuch and Reeves — but we’ll really have to see how things go the next few weeks, including fundraising numbers coming out in mid-April, endorsements, etc. So stay tuned…