Virginia 7: Another House Democrat Eyes the Exits

by Erin Covey August 3, 2023 · 4:00 PM EDT

Abigail Spanberger’s name has long been at the top of the list of Democrats who could run to succeed term-limited Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2025. But Politico’s report that the congresswoman won’t run for re-election in 2024 as she prepares a gubernatorial campaign complicates Democrats’ ability to hold this battleground seat.

Without Spanberger on the ballot, Republicans would have an unquestionably better chance at picking up this seat. 

Joe Biden won this seat by 7 points in 2020, but Youngkin carried it by 5 points one year later. The district swung back toward Democrats’ in 2022, when Spanberger defeated Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega by 5 points (after the Republican made national news for her comments on abortion).

Even with Spanberger on the ballot, the 2024 race was expected to be fairly competitive, though Republicans who spoke with Inside Elections acknowledged that this race wouldn’t have been a priority. 

But Democratic operatives remain cautiously optimistic that they can hold this seat, which still favors them slightly. The 7th leans Democratic by 2.8 points (50.8 to 48.1 percent) according to Inside Elections’ Baseline metric, which measures the political lean of a district based on the past four election cycles. And Democrats would prefer an open seat in a presidential year to a special election in an off-year.

Spanberger would be the third Democratic member this year to leave their competitive House seat in a bid for higher office, joining Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Katie Porter. Both congresswomen are running for the Senate this year, bolstering Republicans’ chances of flipping the two seats.

Like Slotkin and Porter, Spanberger is known for her fundraising prowess. Her massive war chest, coupled with her moderate credentials, has made her a difficult opponent over the past two election cycles. Last cycle, she raised more than $9 million while Vega raised $3.7 million.

For the next three months, Virginia politics will be consumed by the fight for control of the General Assembly (Democrats narrowly control the state Senate while Republicans have a slim majority in the state House) — which is why Spanberger isn’t expected to announce her 2024 plans until after Nov. 7.

At this point, the congresswoman hasn’t confirmed or denied the news; her spokesperson told Politico that “Abigail is squarely focused on the 2023 General Assembly races.”

Potential Democratic Field
Democratic operatives who spoke with Inside Elections expect a crowded primary. The party has a deep bench in the suburbs of Northern Virginia filled with politicians eager to travel the short distance across the Potomac. But until the congresswoman announces her 2024 plans, any primary machinations will happen behind the scenes. And several potential candidates are currently busy running for General Assembly seats.

The most obvious potential candidates would be former state Dels. Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hala Ayala — who just ran against each other in a bitter primary for an open state Senate seat based in Prince William County. Carroll Foy, who was backed by more than a dozen labor unions, emerged victorious, defeating Ayala by 26 points. Ayala had the backing of former Govs. Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam.

Carroll Foy and Ayala were part of a class of Democrats who flipped more than a dozen state House seats in 2017, paving the way for Democrats to take control of the House in 2019. Both women also ran for statewide office in 2021. Carroll Foy came in second place in the Democratic primary for governor, winning nearly 20 percent of the vote. Ayala won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and went on to lose to Republican Winsome Sears by 2 points.

Prince William County is chock-full of other Democrats who could run for the 7th, though none have experience running in federal or statewide races. One potential candidate is state Sen. Jeremy McPike, who represented Prince William County in the state Senate since 2016 and just won a competitive primary for the new version of his seat. McPike’s primary opponent, progressive state Del. Elizabeth Guzman, could also run — she lost to McPike by just 50 votes in June.

Candi King, Michelle Maldonado, Briana Sewell, and Danica Roem all represent parts of Prince William County in the state House. Roem, who's currently running for a state Senate seat, told Inside Elections that she was "not running and won’t be running for VA-07 under any circumstance."

Another potential candidate would be Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin.

There’s fewer options in Stafford County, which is at the edge of Northern Virginia and has turned purple in recent years. Former state Del. Joshua G. Cole, who’s running for a competitive House district, and Marine veteran Joel Griffin, who’s running for a competitive Senate seat, could jump in the congressional race.

Cameron Webb would be another potential candidate. Though he was the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 5th District in 2020, he’s originally from Spotsylvania County, which is in the 7th. Webb, a physician and assistant professor at the University of Virginia, is currently a COVID-19 policy adviser at the White House.

Whoever Democrats’ nominate will need to ramp up their fundraising quickly because of the condensed timeline. The vast majority of the district is within Washington D.C.’s media market, one of the more expensive markets in the country. 

Potential Republican Field
Two Republicans are currently running for the 7th, but neither are seen as serious candidates. Army veteran Shaliek Tarpley has yet to file any fundraising reports with the FEC, and Intensity Analytics chief marketing officer Bill Moher has raised less than $10,000 (he also loaned himself $340,000). 

But Republican operatives in D.C. are hoping that Derrick Anderson, a retired Green Beret who ran in the GOP primary for the 7th last cycle, will run again. The Spotsylvania County native came in second place in the crowded primary with 24 percent (Vega won the nomination with just 29 percent). 

Two other potential candidates are retired U.S. Army General Tim Kadavy, who served as the former director of the Army National Guard, and retired Navy SEAL Cameron Hamilton. Hamilton is close to state Del. Nick Freitas, who lost to Spanberger by 2 points in 2020.

As for Vega herself, she’s running for re-election to her county board of supervisors seat in 2023, and she hasn’t commented publicly on whether she’d run for Congress again in 2024.

Updated Aug. 4 with a comment from Roem.