The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Abigail Spanberger defeats Yesli Vega

4 min read
Three students pose, smiling, behind a table. The table has coffee and donuts and American flags.

Students table on Election Day. | Josephine Johnson, The Weekly Ringer


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On Tuesday, Nov. 8, incumbent Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) won her third term, beating GOP candidate Yesli Vega in the battle for the 7th Congressional District seat in Virginia. Having won both the 2018 and 2020 general elections with just over 50% over the votes, Tuesday’s win proved no different. 

The Associated Press called the race for Spanberger on Tuesday night, with Vega conceding shortly before noon on Wednesday via Twitter.

“I’m always surprised by election outcomes. Particularly, what we know is that we expected the party of the President to lose seats and that certainly occurred,” said Rosalyn Cooperman, chair of the political science and international affairs department. “What is surprising is that the expected red wave, that certainly Republicans were looking for, was a lot less red and kind of spotty in areas and so that is going to be something that political scientists, folks who watch elections and all of us will pay particular attention to.”

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs, noted that Spanberger’s power is likely to be overshadowed by a Republican Congress.

“The reality is that for the next couple of years, the likelihood is that there’ll be a Republican majority in Congress and that means any Democratic initiatives, regardless of who puts them forward, will not get very far,” he said. “The main thing to expect over the next few years out of Washington is gridlock. The country is basically divided 50/50. And so, even if one party controls the level of power, there’s still enough influence on the other party to block a lot of the agenda.”

According to Farnsworth, prior to the recent redrawing of the district, Fredericksburg has historically favored Republicans. In past years when democratic candidates ran, they never saw success as a result of the district’s design.

“Virginia’s new 7th district is more democratic than the old district in terms of where the lines have been redrawn,” said Farnsworth. “Spanberger had the advantage of a district that was more democratic.”

Despite this favorable position, only 10% of voters originating in the old district remained in the new, Farnsworth said, forcing Spanberger to introduce herself and her policies to voters new to the altered 7th District.

Spanberger ran a moderate campaign, strongly advocating for women’s reproductive freedom as well as educational legislation, both messages that deeply resonate with a large number of UMW students. 

“I wasn’t able to vote in the 7th district, but I did vote, as well as phonebank and canvas for Abigail Spanberger,” said sophomore computer science and political science double major and Young Democrats officer Luke Busch. “I’m super happy she won!”

The College Republicans did not immediately respond to The Weekly Ringer’s request for comment.

In observance of Election Day, UMW encouraged its educators to cancel classes, giving students the opportunity to travel to their respective districts, however far, to vote. 

UMW Votes, a program offered by the Center for Community Engagement looking to encourage students’ civic participation, offered rides to the polls from the Bell Tower from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 8. 

Katheryn Gonzalez, a senior political science major and member of UMW Votes, was one of many volunteers providing students with information regarding departures to their polling location. 

“I think that this is great exposure for the political process on a campus this size,” said Gonzalez. “Helping and encouraging young adults to turn out to vote, because they are such a large population however they don’t vote as frequently, is something that we’re trying to work to change and to promote civic engagement among younger college students.”

Ryder Ward, a freshman theatre major, got a ride to the polls from UMW Votes. 

“I was excited to vote for the very first time,” said Ward. “It was really easy. They made sure that we all knew our information before going in, making sure we all had proper identification and everything like that.”

The UMW Young Democratic Socialists of America also participated in Day on Democracy.

“We are participating in Day on Democracy of course encouraging young people to vote and to engage in their civic duty,” said Devin Schwers, a junior political science major and chair of the UMW Young Democratic Socialists of America. “More specifically we are here advocating for … progressive policies in the United States both economically and socially.”

Though some were excited about their first time casting their ballot, others were not thrilled with either candidate. 

“The choice becomes which one is less evil,” said undeclared freshman and Radical Students’ Union member Eleni Kepler. 

Freshman political science major Tonia Attie noted the importance of voting no matter what the candidates are like.

“Even if you don’t like the candidates, even if you don’t agree with either side it’s still important to vote because you have to have your voice heard, be represented,” said Attie. “It’s the only way we can actually have change.”

Others were excited to participate in such a close race.

“It feels awesome knowing that our city played a vital role in this election,” said junior international affairs major Joe Johnson, president of the Young Democrats. “It should remind us that we all matter, one vote, our votes have effects for representation across the nation.”

Caitlin Shirvinski, a senior geography major, felt the importance of casting her ballot.

“I felt that given the political climate, my vote was super important,” she said. “There were a lot of human rights issues addressed by the candidates particularly relating to women’s rights. It was empowering to vote.”

Josephine Johnson and Callie Harkins contributed to reporting for this article.