Facing Opposition: US Rep. Abigail Spanberger vs. Seven Republican Candidates

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., gestures during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Amie Knowles
April 18, 2022

There are seven potential congressional candidates vying for incumbent Abigail Spanberger’s seat in VA-07

GLEN ALLEN—April 7 marked the last day to file to get on the primary ballot for Virginia’s congressional race. As 5 p.m. came and went, only one Democrat filed for the 7th District — and that was current US Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

When Spanberger first took office in 2019, she was the first woman to ever serve in the role in the 7th District. Now, she’s hoping to defend her seat against eight Republicans vying for the nomination. 

Since no other Democrats filed in her district, She is automatically the party’s candidate of choice. However, the Republican candidates will face off over the next few months in an effort to come out on top with their party’s nomination. The chosen candidate will go head to head with Spanberger on Nov. 8, when the general election results will reveal the ultimate winner in the district.

During her time in office, Spanberger has proven her leadership abilities, dedication to her constituents, and ability to get things done. She recently secured more than $6.4 million in funds for 10 counties in her district. She also passed legislation leading to an investigation into the long-term, negative health impacts of jet fuel exposure on America’s servicemembers.

With the Republican primary taking place on June 21, we did a little digging into the candidates, and what their platforms could mean for the 7th District.

Gary Adkins

Originally from Clintwood, Gary Adkins served in the US Air Force from 1969 to 1989. During that time, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Troy State University in 1982. His other professional experience involves entrepreneurial work. 

On his website, he expressed that he would “fight relentlessly for conservative principles and values.” He also listed his stance on 22 issues facing Virginians — everything from national defense to 1st and 2nd Amendment rights.

He also expressed his belief about marriage being between one man and one woman. On abortion, he said he is “totally 100% pro-life.”  As for healthcare, he said he does not favor a “socialist style, government-run healthcare system.” 

When referencing DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy granting temporary permission for certain youth to stay in the US — Adkins said this: “This issue exemplifies the monumental failure of Congress to perform its Constitutional duty to address US Immigration and Naturalization Policy.”

Derrick Anderson

Spotsylvania County native Derrick Anderson also has a military background. He served in the US Army’s Special Forces, known as the “Green Berets,” with six tours of duty overseas, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, and various countries throughout the Middle East. 

Anderson served in the White House during President Donald Trump’s Administration, where he worked in the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Following President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address, Anderson released a public statement on the speech, in part saying that it “illustrated exactly why we need a change in leadership in Washington.” In the statement, he pushed “conservative policies,” including low costs of living and prices of goods, changes to immigration and border security, and making America a world leader.

He was also a guest on Fox & Friends, where he discussed the ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine.

Gina Ciarcia

Ciarcia’s website touts her as a “political outsider.” She is a Marine Corps wife, a mother, and a teacher.  

She listed several issues for her platform on why she’s running, including American values, education, law enforcement, veterans, life, gun rights, and a category framed as taxes, spending, and the economy, including her viewpoint that taxpayers’ dollars should not fund abortions, pushing against anti-police rhetoric and legislation, and school choice.

Bryce Reeves

Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-VA), is vying for a different seat this year. The California-born congressional-hopeful was elected to the Senate in 2011, defeating the 28-year Democratic incumbent, Edd Houck.

Like many of his opponents, Reeves listed platform issues on his website, spanning from energy independence to putting America’s interests first. On the latter, he called Biden an “empty suit on the job,” who he alleged was leaving America economically vulnerable.

He also noted right-wing stances on other issues like election integrity, calling the 2020 election “a disaster,” on education, saying the “left is infecting our schools with anti-American ideals like Critical Race Theory,” —which isn’t taught in Virginia schools— and on 2nd Amendment rights, promising to fight against attempts to pass red flag laws, universal background checks, high magazine bans, and one gun a month laws.

David Ross

Yes, this candidate’s name is David Ross. No, it’s not that David Ross. While it might be cool to have the former professional baseball catcher and current manager for the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball in the running for a congressional seat, that’s not the case. In Virginia, we’ve got David Ross — Spotsylvania County Supervisor.

Ross was first elected to his county supervisor position in 2011, a seat he still currently holds. His platform consists of four major areas: The economy, constitutional rights, being pro-life, and defense. 

Critical of the current economy and inflation, he promises not to raise taxes. He also said that the military must be ready for challenges, that abortion should not be publicly funded, and that politicians should not pass laws that contradict constitutional rights.

Crystal Vanuch

The Chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, Crystal Vanuch, also has her eyes set on the 7th district’s congressional seat. Born and raised in Stafford County, Vaunch spent much of her career working in the healthcare field, but now owns a public affairs firm where she serves as the president and CEO.

The VoteVaunch Facebook page presents her as a small business owner and a “proven conservative.” Some of her top issues include combatting Critical Race Theory in the classroom, — again, not a subject taught in Virginia schools — keeping government spending in check, and overseeing job creation. 

She listed ten official platform priorities on her website, including economic rebuilding, standing with law enforcement, protecting individual liberty, election integrity, and more.

Yesli Vega

She’s a military wife, a mother, a law enforcement officer, and a conservative — and now the Texas-born woman is running for congressional office. Moving to Virginia at the age of five, Vega quickly made the state her home. She now serves on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

On her website, Vega lists 10 priority issues including election reform, student-centered education, inflation, and more. While covering education, she referred to some school teachings as “dangerous and divisive rhetoric,” alleging that some students were placed into categories like “oppressed” and “oppressors.” 

On election reform, she noted opposition to bills like HR1 (known as the “For The People Act of 2021), but supported the implementation of a photo identification requirement to vote.

The Republican primary will take place on June 21.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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