RICHMOND, Va. — Freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria has held on to her seat in a Virginia congressional district that includes suburban and rural areas and the world’s largest naval base.
The former U.S. Navy commander defeated Republican Scott Taylor in Tuesday’s election. Taylor is a former Navy SEAL who represented the district for one term before Luria defeated him in 2018.
The contest was one of three closely watched House races in Virginia, one of which was won by a Republican and the other of which was still too early to call.
Luria’s win is a boost to Democrats, who have scored a series of victories during President Donald Trump’s term. On Tuesday, presidential candidate Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner easily won statewide contests. Democrats' strength was shakier, however, outside the heavily populated liberal suburbs of northern Virginia.
Officials were still counting votes Wednesday. Vote totals could still shift because Friday is the deadline to receive mail-in absentee ballots.
That’s why it was still too early to call the race of U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger. She, like Luria, is defending a seat she flipped from red to blue two years ago in a Trump-friendly district, a victory that helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House.
Spanberger, a former CIA operations officer, is trying to hold on against Republican challenger Nick Freitas in the Richmond-area 7th Congressional District. Freitas is a delegate in Virginia’s House and a former U.S. Army Green Beret.
During her 20 years in the Navy, Luria’s assignments included operating nuclear reactors on an aircraft carrier and serving as second in command of a guided missile cruiser.
Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District spans the state’s coast and includes suburban areas such as Virginia Beach, as well as the rural Eastern Shore. It also boasts the world’s largest Navy base in Norfolk and a large population of military veterans.
Luria established herself as a relative moderate in Congress who reached across the aisle. President Trump has signed into law bipartisan legislation that Luria authored to provide tax relief to Gold Star families.
In a statement, Luria thanked voters and said that “more than ever, the challenges we face as a nation call for bipartisan solutions and cooperation across the political spectrum.” She said she would focus on issues involving affordable health care and the economy as well as helping military veterans, service members and their families.
Luria and Spanberger were part of a group of five moderate Democratic, first-term congresswomen with deep military and intelligence experience. Their credentials were instrumental in pushing the Democrat-led House to prosecute Trump over allegations that he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden.
Taylor lost to Luria by about 6,000 votes in 2018. His campaign that year was clouded by a voter fraud scandal in which staffers were accused of forging signatures to place a third-party spoiler candidate on the ballot. Taylor denied knowing of or taking part in any wrongdoing.
Taylor congratulated Luria in a statement and said the nation would transcend its current divisions.
“Over time, I believe that the push and pull of Democracy within our great, flexible Republic strengthens the fabric of our society and keeps us heading in the direction of that ever elusive, more perfect union,” Taylor said.
Democrats had been hopeful both incumbents were going to lock down a clear victory on Election Day. And they also were hoping that internal GOP divisions would help them win a Republican-friendly district in the western part of the state.
But conservative Bob Good defeated political newcomer Dr. Cameron Webb in the 5th District, a central Virginia district stretching from the North Carolina border almost to Washington, D.C. His victory came several months after GOP voters pushed the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, aside after Riggleman angered social conservatives by officiating a gay marriage.
In the presidential race, Trump made noise about carrying Virginia, doing a quick campaign rally at the Newport News airport in September that drew thousands of supporters. Overall, though, the state was not a focus of either presidential campaign. While Virginia was considered a swing state as recently as 2012, it has trended sharply toward Democrats over the past decade. Republicans have not won statewide in Virginia since 2009.
Elsewhere in Virginia, three incumbent GOP House members — Reps. Rob Wittman, Ben Cline, and Morgan Griffith — held on to their seats, as did Democratic Reps. Don Beyer, Jennifer Wexton, Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott and Don McEachin.
Voters also approved a referendum that puts next year’s redistricting in Virginia in the hands of a bipartisan commission. The amendment to the state constitution caps a yearslong effort by reformers looking to end partisan gerrymandering. A bipartisan commission of citizens and legislators equally divided between Democrats and Republicans will now redraw the state’s congressional and General Assembly districts to conform with the 2020 Census.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.