The University of Mary Washington resides in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District where, come Election Day on Nov. 8, voters will decide between re-electing incumbent Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger or flipping the seat and electing Republican Yesli Vega.
The Cook Political Report, an independent, non-partisan newsletter that analyzes campaigns and elections, has deemed the race as one of the most competitive in the country. Together, the two campaigns have raised over $11 million.
Virginia’s newly-redrawn 7th Congressional District encompasses Fredericksburg City, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Orange, Caroline, King George, Greene and Madison Counties, as well as parts of Prince William and Albemarle Counties.
The 7th District, according to the 2020 United States Census, is 64% White, 18% Black, 8% Hispanic and 5% Asian. The median age among residents is 40.7 years old, and the District is comprised of 51% women and 49% men. The District records a median household income of $89,823, which is roughly 10% higher than the statewide median and 1.3 times higher than the national median.
All of the aforementioned demographics, in conjunction with increasing political turmoil, are cited as making this race a tossup.
The Vega campaign
The Vega campaign has raised $2,982,226 as of Nov. 2, according to the Federal Election Commission. She has been endorsed by several leaders in the Republican party, among those are former President Donald Trump, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
Vega’s campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests from The Weekly Ringer, made since Oct. 23.
“President Trump, you know, joins the hundreds of thousands of seventh district voters that have endorsed my campaign,” Vega said in a live interview on Fox News. “When it comes to the race that I’m running, I’m laser focused on continuing to get support from the voters of the 7th district because that’s the most important endorsement for me as we look into Nov. 8.”
Vega has highlighted her appreciation for Youngkin’s endorsement and looks forward to collaborating with the governor if she is elected to the seat.
“We’re going to fight to lower the cost of living for Virginians, clean up the crime in our streets, and ensure parents and children have a say in their education,” said Vega in a written press release accepting Youngkin’s endorsement. “It’s great to have the Governor on our team and we’re looking forward to fighting for a huge win this November.”
Vega started her career in public service as a member of the Prince William Board of Supervisors. While on the board, she defeated gun control resolutions, introduced reduced property tax rates and worked to preserve an agreement between Prince William County and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allowed local police forces to act as federal officers, according to NPR.
She is running on a platform that vows to institute checks and balances on the Biden Administration, protect law enforcement, strengthen border security, limit government, abolish critical race theory in public primary schools, ensure affordable and transparent healthcare, boost the economy, reinstate integrity in elections and provide the American people with “competent” foreign policy, according to her campaign website.
“Virginians are sick and tired of sky-rocking gas prices and cost of living and they are tired of the drugs and rampant crime due to Biden’s Southern border crisis,” she said in a written press release. “We’re seeing this kind of momentum all across the district, including a massive wave of support from former and currently elected leaders like Congressman Bob Good, Senator Ted Cruz, Ken Cuccinelli, Dave Brat, and Corey Stewart. With our growing coalition of support, there’s no doubt we are the best campaign to take on Abigail Spanberger and win this seat in November.”
Vega has also noted inflation and the economy as drivers of change in Virginia and the country as a whole.
“Small businesses in Virginia continue to struggle under the leadership of Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Abigail Spanberger,” she said in a written press release. “It’s no secret that since Biden took office, American businesses are facing a disrupted supply chain, skyrocketing inflation, and employment shortages. … We are fighting for the small business owners who have struggled to keep their businesses afloat under Biden’s policies. We are fighting to help create good paying jobs in our communities and to root out burdensome government regulations that hinder folks from pursuing the American Dream.”
The Spanberger campaign
Abigail Spanberger, the Democrat and incumbent, has raised $8,348,350 thus far, according to the Federal Election Commission. In addition to some elected officials, she has been endorsed by the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Post Editorial Board and Planned Parenthood.
Spanberger embraces the UMW community as a powerful influence in the 7th District and encourages students to turn out and vote in every election, no matter who is on the ballot.
“Every election is important, and in Virginia where we have elections every year, it is sometimes easy to think that higher-profile elections are more important and that you don’t need to vote every year,” she said in an email interview with The Weekly Ringer. “However, in every election, your priorities — whether they be hyper-local or national — are on the ballot. This year’s election will determine control of Congress and who is your representative in the U.S. House. There are clear differences between the candidates on your ballots, whether you vote in Fredericksburg or back home.”
Several UMW students and alumni have joined the Spanberger campaign to serve as interns, volunteers and full-time staffers.
“Half of our field team is made up of fantastic UMW grads — Rina Murasaki, Jason Ford, and Keegan Frederick — who bring professionalism, heart, and creativity to our team,” she said. “Additionally, I’ve been privileged to have many UMW students intern and volunteer for our campaign, knock doors and make phone calls, and get the word out about how we can make Virginia a stronger place. I’m so grateful to have the support of engaged, dedicated, and thoughtful students who care about our communities, our Commonwealth, and our country.”
As noted on her campaign website, Spanberger is running in hopes of bolstering the economy, lowering healthcare and drug costs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, “cleaning up Washington,” safeguarding access to abortion, strengthening national security, securing boarders, funding the police, preventing gun violence, supporting students, defending civil rights and protecting the environment.
“These differences matter, and the policies that my colleagues and I are voting on and making — or not voting on and not making — will impact you and your peers years into the future,” she said. “Right now, students have the opportunity to choose candidates who are working to address the issues you face every day — like improving college affordability, lowering costs, and increasing job opportunities during school and after graduation. You also have the opportunity to weigh in on decisions that will impact the rest of your life, your career, and your family for years to come.”
Spanberger recognized the stress that comes alongside following a campaign and witnessing constant breaking news as one grows up.
“It can be easy to get discouraged by cable news hosts, politicians, or social media personalities who seek to divide us or promote outrage, so ignore them, unfollow them, and focus on what matters in your community and life,” she said. “I know it is easier said than done, but we live in a country where the voices and votes of every citizen, not just those with the biggest platforms or the most resources, carry the exact same weight at the ballot box.”
Spanberger continued, “I know from my time campaigning across our district that more people want progress, safer communities, greater opportunities, a strong economy, solid educational system, healthy families, and accessible and responsible public servants driving real policy progress — and that continued progress will be possible when everyone votes.”
Spanberger has represented UMW and the surrounding Fredericksburg community since 2019. On Tuesday, Oct. 4, the James Farmer Multicultural Center hosted her as part of a social justice teach-in. She spoke on the importance of civic engagement and advised students on how to remain invested in politics despite a greatly polarized and ever-changing political landscape.
“It may sound trite or simplistic, but be a part of the change you want to see,” she said. “When we participate, when we choose to remain hopeful about the future of our country, and when we find common ground with our neighbors, we can make progress.”
Spanberger encouraged young people to stay engaged, even as the political climate heats up.
“If you feel overwhelmed by the current political climate, don’t turn away from it,” she said. “Instead, engage on issues that matter to you; seek out earnest conversations about politics and the impact of policy in your lives; participate in conversations that make you think, that challenge you and that challenge others; and expect candidates and politicians to focus on issues, results, and accountability.”
As Election Day approaches, Spanberger reflected on her relationship with UMW and emphasized that students should contact her if she can assist them in any way.
“Now that UMW is part of Virginia’s Seventh District, I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you and sharing my thoughts and policy priorities with your classmates, your professors, and your neighbors in Fredericksburg,” she said. “This is a special place, filled with engaged students who challenge themselves — and I look forward to serving UMW in Congress and listening to the issues that matter most to you going forward.”
Buildup to election day
Gallup, a global analytics firm, conducted a national poll attempting to gauge important issues for voters going into the midterms. 49% of voters say the state of the economy is extremely important to their vote, 42% of voters say abortion is extremely important to their vote and 40% say crime is extremely important to their vote. Gun policy, immigration, relations with Russia and climate change were additionally noted as topics of importance to voters.
According to an NBC News poll conducted in Oct. 2022, 30% of registered voters – 41% of Democrats, 23% of Republicans and 20% of Independents – believe “threats to democracy” are a top issue.
Overall, Americans on both sides of the aisle are looking towards the midterms as means of getting their voices heard.