RICHMOND, Va. ( Associated Press) — Virginia voters on Tuesday picked a state senator and a law enforcement officer as Republican candidates in what could be two of the nation’s most competitive US House races.
Jane Keegans defeated three challengers to win the nomination in Virginia’s Coastal Second District and will face U.S. Representative Ellen Luria, And Yesli Vega, an assistant deputy and county-level elected official, prevailed in a crowded field in the central Virginia 7th District. Vega will face Representative Abigail Spanberger in the general election, where Republicans are bullish about their chances of reversing seats currently held by two centrist Democrats.
“Joe Biden’s disastrous policies are on the ballot this November, and in the Second District, these policies are known as Elaine Luria,” Keegans told an energetic crowd of supporters who had gathered at a tavern in Virginia Beach. .
Keegans, who was seen as the leading man on Tuesday, easily defeated three opponents, including far-right Jarom Bell, who called himself a “MAGA candidate” and was involved in what he claimed was widespread voter fraud. Anyone was called to execute.
A former Navy helicopter pilot and a geriatric nurse practitioner, Keegans has represented parts of Virginia Beach and Norfolk in the state Senate since 2020.
Several voters who spoke to the Associated Press said they were supporting him because they thought he was in the best position to turn the district over in November.
Marianne Winn, 83, said Keegans came to her home during the election campaign and showed concern for senior citizens as well as nursing homes. Winn said he was particularly concerned about President Joe Biden’s failure to deal with rising inflation, particularly food prices.
“I buy chocolate morsels to make chocolate chip cookies,” said Winn, who retired from working in an elementary school cafeteria. “They were $2.25 and now they are $3.58. …. Everything has gone up.”
Like Keegans, Luria is also a Navy Veteran. She is currently on a January 6 committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol and has cultivated a congressional identity as a centrist since turning the district blue under her back lines in 2018. He is expected to face a tough challenge under the new lines.
The second district covers the coast of Virginia, including Virginia Beach and the East Coast.
Luria’s campaign manager, Kate Feigly, said in a statement that Keegans was a “political opportunist” and “elusive of choice”. In recent interviews, Keegans declined to say whether Biden was legitimately elected.
“The people of Virginia’s Second Congressional District trust Ellen Luria and know she will continue to do the right thing regardless of the political implications,” Fegley said in a statement.
Former President Donald Trump did not support the 2nd or 7th district, thanks to a complete redistribution that moved it away from the Richmond suburbs. It now covers a portion of the cities and counties between the Charlottesville and Washington suburbs. The GOP nomination battle was seen as more volatile ahead of Tuesday’s vote, with several contenders including Vega claiming the momentum.
Vega, who currently serves on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, defeated five other candidates, including a long-serving state senator, to secure the nomination.
Born in Texas to immigrant parents from El Salvador, Vega helped run Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Latino Voter Coalition during his campaign last year. She has served as a police officer and sheriff’s deputy and currently serves as an assistant deputy in the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office.
She drew off support from an array of right-wing officials, including US Sen. Ted Cruz – who joined her for campaign events on Monday – former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, US Representatives Bob Good and Ginny Thomas.Conservative activist and wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The Democratic Party of Virginia has previously criticized Vega for its characterization of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. During a candid forum, Vega described the violence at the Capitol as “a group of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.”
“The difference couldn’t be more clear this election,” Virginia Democratic Party Chair Susan Sweker said in a statement. “Republicans in VA-02 and VA-07 designated far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists who have no place in Congress.”
Spanberger expressed confidence in a statement released before voting closed: “Virgines will have a clear choice this fall. I look forward to debating the issues with my opponent and winning re-election.”
Neither he nor Luria faced primary challenges and earlier this month reported several million in cash in hand.
There were very few competitive events on Tuesday in many other districts. In Northern Virginia’s 8th District, four-time Democratic Party representative Don Baer defeated first-time Progressive candidate Victoria Virsingh.
Baer, who was the only Democratic incumbent to face a primary challenge, said in a statement that he was humbled to have earned the trust of voters and thanked Virsingh for his “spirited challenge”.
In the dark-red Shenandoah Valley Sixth District, GOP Representative Ben Kline defeated challenger Merritt Hale. And voters in the heavily blue-leaning third district tapped Republican Air Force veteran Terry Namkung to take on incumbent Representative Bobby Scott.
Many of Virginia’s other crowded GOP nomination contests were previously decided during party-run processes.
Associated Press reporter Ben Finlay and photographer Steve Helber contributed to this report.