RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia voters are set to pick Republican nominees Tuesday for two races expected to be among the year’s most competitive for U.S. House seats.
Voters will winnow a four-person field in the coastal 2nd District and a six-person field in the central 7th District to take on centrist Democratic incumbents Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger. The general election races could help determine which party controls the U.S. House.
“The path to flipping the U.S. House goes through Hampton Roads, through VA-02,” a confident state Sen. Jen Kiggans, the presumptive 2nd District frontrunner, said in a recent interview. “I understand the gravity of that, and that’s why we’ve been working hard.”
Kiggans is a former Navy helicopter pilot and a geriatric nurse practitioner who has served in the state Senate since 2020. Her Tuesday opponents are all veterans as well. They include Tommy Altman, a Virginia Beach tattoo shop owner; Andy Baan, a former prosecutor who retired as a captain from the Navy; and Jarome Bell, a retired Navy chief petty officer who calls himself the “MAGA candidate.”
Former President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed in the 2nd or 7th districts.
Don Lovett, 74, who lives in Smithfield, said in a recent interview that he was leaning toward voting for Kiggans because of her military service and experience in the General Assembly, which he thought made her more likely to beat Luria in November. Luria, also a Navy veteran, is a moderate serving on the Jan. 6 committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol.
Lovett, who owns a business that distributes specialty electrical instrumentation, said he sees little difference on the issues between the candidates but was put off by some of the harsh rhetoric from Bell, who has called for executing anyone involved in what he claims is widespread voter fraud.
“I’m going to try to pick a good candidate certainly, but also the most electable candidate, particularly if it’s going to be a tight race, and I think this will be,” he said.
The 2nd District covers much of Virginia’s coast, including the city of Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore. GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin won it by more than 11 points last year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
The 7th District was entirely reshaped thanks to redistricting, which shifted it away from the Richmond suburbs. It now covers a stretch of cities and counties between Charlottesville and the Washington suburbs, and the GOP nomination fight there is seen as more unsettled, with several contenders claiming momentum.
State Sen. Bryce Reeves, an Army veteran and former police detective, is facing off against Derrick Anderson, a former Green Beret and Georgetown Law graduate, and Yesli Vega, a local elected official with law enforcement experience who’s picked up high-profile endorsements. Also in the race are Crystal Vanuch and David Ross, who serve on local boards of supervisors, and Gina Ciarcia, an educator who has trailed the pack in fundraising.
A former CIA officer, Spanberger like Luria flipped a competitive GOP-held seat in 2018 and is now competing under lines that Youngkin would have won, according to the Virginia Public Access Project’s analysis.
Spanberger said in a statement that she was focused on responding to the needs of her constituents.
“No matter who wins on Tuesday night, they will have little impact whatsoever on my service to our Commonwealth and my continued focus on the concerns of Virginia families, businesses, and seniors,” Spanberger said.
Also Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, who currently represents the Shenandoah Valley-based 6th District, faces a challenge from Navy veteran Merritt Hale.
Several of Virginia’s other crowded GOP nomination contests have already been settled during party-run processes.
No Democratic incumbent but Don Beyer, who represents the heavily Democratic northern Virginia 8th District, faces a primary challenger. Victoria Virasingh is competing against the four-term incumbent and former lieutenant governor for the nomination.
After Tuesday, the two major parties will have a candidate in each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.
Polling hours are from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Associated Press reporter Ben Finley contributed to this report from Norfolk.