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Spanberger running for Virginia governor instead of another House term

Ex-CIA officer flipped a seat in 2018 and held on to it even after Youngkin carried district

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., speaks during an early voting rally in Prince William County, Va., on Sept. 24, 2022.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., speaks during an early voting rally in Prince William County, Va., on Sept. 24, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Abigail Spanberger will run for governor of Virginia in 2025 instead of reelection to the House next year, she announced Monday.

“Our country and our commonwealth are facing fundamental threats to our rights, our freedoms, and to our democracy. While some politicians in Richmond focus on banning abortion and books, what they’re not doing is helping people,” the three-term Democrat said in a video announcing her campaign. “I know how to bring people together and get real things done that improve lives.”

“Even in this moment of deep division, we can seize the opportunity. I am running to serve all Virginians in every community across our commonwealth, because it’s about time we do what’s right for everyone,” she added.

A former CIA officer, Spanberger was part of a group of Democratic women with military and intelligence backgrounds who made their first runs for office in 2018 and helped fuel the blue wave that flipped control of the House that year. Spanberger, 44, won her seat in the 7th District by defeating two-term Republican Rep. David Brat by 2 percentage points. After Republican Glenn Youngkin won the 2021 governor’s race and carried the district, the GOP poured money into trying to defeat Spanberger in 2022. But she won her third term by nearly 5 points, an early sign on election night that an anticipated red wave was not breaking.

Youngkin cannot run for reelection — by law, no Virginia governor can — but his party goes into 2024 after disappointing defeats in this month’s legislative races. Youngkin made an aggressive push to flip control of the state Senate, but Democrats not only held on to control, they flipped enough seats to gain control of the House of Delegates as well.

Spanberger’s decision means Democrats will be defending two open seats in Virginia in 2024 after Rep. Jennifer Wexton said in September that she would not seek another term in the 10th District for health reasons. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 10th District as Likely Democratic, but the 7th District as Tilt Democratic.

“Nothing is going right for Democrats in Virginia’s Seventh District, but the NRCC is all hands on deck to flip this now-open seat and grow the House Republican majority. Spanberger joining the other swing-district Democrats racing for the exits makes House Democrats’ climb out of the minority that much steeper,” Delanie Bomar, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, said on the social media platform X.

Representing a divided district, Spanberger was among the most likely to break with her party on votes that divided Democrats and Republicans when Democrats were in power and Donald Trump was in the White House, according to CQ Vote Studies. In 2019, she opposed Democrats on 11 percent of party-line votes, and in 2020 she broke with her colleagues 14 percent of the time.

In May 2020, for example, she voted against Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief package, which passed the House but wasn’t taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Spanberger argued that it was wrong to move on the measure at a time when the parties were at an impasse over how much relief was needed.

After President Joe Biden took office, her opposition rates on party unity votes dropped to 5 percent in 2021 and 8 percent in 2022.

She attacked the party’s campaign strategy after Democrats lost 13 seats in the 2020 elections. After losses continued in 2022 and the GOP won control of the House, she was elected to a post in Democratic leadership as representative of members in the most competitive seats.

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