Navy Veteran to Challenge Republican Congresswoman in Hampton Roads District

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

By Carolyn Fiddler

September 6, 2023

First-term Republican US Rep. Jen Kiggans has already drawn a 2024 challenger in Virginia’s 2nd congressional district.

Democrat Missy Cotter Smasal announced this week that she’s running for the seat currently held by Kiggans, who’s not even halfway through her first term in Congress.

Cotter Smasal is a Navy veteran and executive director of Valor Run, a local nonprofit organization that hosts running events to honor women who serve in the military. She also serves as a citizen representative on the Chesapeake Bay Commission and is an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University. She’s never held elected office, although she did run for the Virginia state Senate in 2019.

In her announcement, Cotter Smasal specifically called out Kiggans’ record on veterans issues.

“She voted to cut veterans’ health benefits and then lied about it,” Cotter Smasal said, referencing Kiggans’ support for House Republicans’ plan to raise the debt ceiling this past spring. “Virginia’s veterans deserve a member of Congress who will honor our promises, not ones, like Kiggans, who vote to take away their benefits, threaten military readiness, and use servicemembers as political leverage.”

Cotter Smasal already boasts endorsements from former Gov. Ralph Northam and US Rep. Jennifer McClellan (VA-04).

While Republican-leaning, VA-02 is considered highly competitive. President Joe Biden won this district 50-48% in 2020, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin flipped it for the GOP the following year 55-44%. Kiggans defeated incumbent Rep. Elaine Luria 52-48% in 2022.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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