The Democratic congresswoman and Virginia gubernatorial candidate also pledged to do everything she can to uphold America’s democracy.
US Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia is calling out Donald Trump for pressuring Republicans in Congress to kill the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, a bipartisan border agreement that failed in a 49-50 Senate vote on Wednesday thanks in large part to public opposition and private pressure from the former president—currently the party leader and Republican frontrunner in this year’s presidential race.
“The very principle that we would have someone seeking higher office who says, ‘No, let that problem continue—let this problem continue to be pervasive because I want to use it as a political tool.’ That’s the opposite of everything we should see in our political system,” Spanberger told Dogwood in an exclusive interview.
Spanberger, a Virginia gubernatorial candidate, is outraged by Trump’s cynical political move.
“It’s been widely reported that the former president has been calling Republican members of the House and Senate saying, ‘Don’t take action on this issue,’” she continues.
“‘There’s a crisis at the border, but don’t force policy because I want to use this crisis,’” she said, continuing to paraphrase Trump’s position, “‘The suffering of vulnerable people who want to move to the United States, who want to come here looking for jobs, who want to come here to claim asylum, or a system that is overwhelming the brave men and women who work every day at our border—don’t address that, don’t try to fix it, don’t try to make it better,’ because [Trump] wants to use it as a political wedge issue.”
The bipartisan bill would have reduced record-high crossings of migrants at the border, tightened the requirements to qualify for asylum, allowed President Biden to shut down the border if a certain number of daily recorded crossings was reached, and ended the controversial ‘catch and release’ practice. The union representing the US Customs and Border Patrol publicly supported the bill.
Spanberger discusses candidacy for governor
Unlike Trump’s goal of keeping a fixable issue unsolved so he can campaign on it, Spanberger said she has always been motivated by solving problems and getting things done for Virginians and the American people, which is why she is running to be the first female governor of Virginia, with the hopes of succeeding Glenn Youngkin in 2025.
That’s also what drove her to run for Congress in 2018.
Before entering the political ring, the Virginia native worked as a postal inspector focused on money laundering and narcotics cases. Then in 2006, Spanberger became a CIA operations officer, gathering intelligence about nuclear proliferation and terrorism.
Now she wants to use her experience “building coalitions of people to move forward on objectives to get things done” in Congress to serve in the top job in Virginia, she told Dogwood.
She explained her decision to leave her seat in the US House of Representatives, where Democrats are already the minority by a slim margin, and enter the 2025 gubernatorial race.
“[I’ve been] hyper responsive to the needs of my constituents passing legislation, but also working from a constituent service standpoint to ensure that when I see a problem or a problem is brought to me, I’ve been able to aggressively go out, identify the challenges and in fact, work to solve it,” she said. “That’s what we need in the Commonwealth.”
Levar Stoney, the mayor of Richmond since 2017, will run against Spanberger in the Democratic primary for Virginia governor on June 17, 2025.
Spanberger told Dogwood she is confident that Virginia Democrats will choose her in the primary. “Certainly, I think I’m the best candidate in this race, which is why I’m in this race, and I do have a background of winning really tough races.”
In 2018, Spanberger flipped Congressional District 7, previously a red seat for 38 years, by defeating Republican incumbent Dave Brat. She then handily won reelection in 2020 and 2022, despite difficulties brought on by redistricting.
“We have our own internal polling that shows that a lot of people across Virginia know me and a lot of people across Virginia when given a choice of who to vote for, the majority of them say they would vote for me,” she insisted.
As a Virginia representative on Jan. 6, 2021, the congresswoman was there to experience a profound national trauma firsthand, which she said gives her a unique perspective as a gubernatorial candidate looking to reinforce to Virginians the depth of her commitment to democracy and her desire to protect it as the governor.
“I was in the United States Capitol on January 6,” she shared. “I was among those who were stuck in the Capitol in the gallery portion for much of the attack on the Capitol, and it’s horrible to realize that when fellow Americans receive and then believe lies about an election that we can see that level of violence. We can see the insurrection of that day.”
She said she wants Virginians to know that living through the terror of the Capitol attack by violent Trump supporters has only strengthened her commitment to her country and its democracy.
“I won’t be complacent at every point in time when I can stand up for the rule of law and our Constitution, as I have endeavored to do as a representative.”
Lessons from a Founding Father
It is Spanberger’s belief that she and the people of Virginia have a special responsibility to stand up for democracy.
“After all, Virginia is a place where our country was founded, we’re a place of great history,” Spanberger pointed out, adding that she “proudly represents Montpelier, James Madison’s home in Virginia.”
Madison is considered a Founding Father of the United States and served as the fourth president of the country from 1809 to 1817.
Spanberger said she was inspired by visiting Montpelier and walking through James Madison’s library, where the tour guide pointed out the chair where the then-future president sat to read books about “the rise and fall of kingdoms, of ruling groups and of democracies.”
Madison, she said, studied what happened “when there is a creation of a new country, of a new entity, of a governing body and how those fail,” she said.
“Our Founding Fathers spent so much time understanding the failures of other governments first to try to mitigate against those threats.”
Spanberger is clear about the dangers of Virginians—and all Americans—losing the freedoms they have become accustomed to over 250 years.
“Right now, we are seeing ongoing threats to democracy,” she warned in reference to Donald Trump and his political allies. “It comes in the form of lies and conspiracy theories.”
She assured Virginians that she will do everything she can as a US Representative in Congress to protect democracy and then, if elected, as the next governor of Virginia.
She urged Virginians to join her, stating, “It’s on all of us to protect democracy.”
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