Congressional races to watch in Virginia in 2024

Early voters leave a voting location in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

By Michael O'Connor

May 8, 2024

A competitive race in Hampton Roads is attracting national attention as Democrats and Republicans prepare for a November Election Day that will determine control of the narrowly divided US House of Representatives.

Virginia voters will help decide whether Democrats take control of the US House of Representatives this fall.

That’s because Republicans currently control a slim majority in the House heading into Election Day on Nov. 5. Competitive House races in Virginia could help Democrats take control of the House, where 435 representatives in Congress legislate on behalf of districts across the country.

If Democrats win a majority in the House, then they will be in a better position to defend or take action in policy fights like protecting reproductive freedoms and reducing economic inequality.

The number of seats needed to win control of the House in November is so small that any race could tip the balance of power to either Democrats or Republicans, said Mark Rozell, the founding dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

“Consequently, these races are going to be nationalized,” Rozell said of Virginia’s competitive races. “There’s going to be an enormous amount of money dedicated to these campaigns.”

Hampton Roads in play

The 2nd District in Hampton Roads is among the most hotly contested seats in the country.

The 2nd District, which includes Virginia Beach and other parts of Hampton Roads, is currently represented by Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans, but the district has supported Democrats in the past and Virginia Beach voters backed Biden in 2020. Kiggans has come under scrutiny for praising the work and goals of right wing extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene, she is so kind,” Kiggans said in 2023, according to Newsweek. “I have nothing bad or, you know, different to say about any of these people. They’re on my team, right, they are my teammates. We all want the same things. We are all frustrated with the direction of the country.”

Greene’s incendiary and conspiracy-fueled views have gotten her repeatedly banned from X, formerly known as Twitter, and removed from committee assignments in Congress. She’s an outspoken supporter of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen and said on 60 Minutes last year that Democrats are the party of pedophiles, echoing the QAnon conspiracy theory.

There are two Democrats competing to run against Kiggans in November: Missy Cotter Smasal, a US Navy veteran and former small business owner; and Jake Denton, a constitutional and civil rights attorney.

Cotter Smasal has an advantage with big support from the Democratic party. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced in January Cotter Smasal was among 17 “top-tier candidates” that will get strategic guidance, staff resources, training, and fundraising support from the political committee to help her win in November.

“This Biden-won district that was narrowly lost in 2022 is one of the most competitive races in the country,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said at the time.

Northern Virginia races

In Northern Virginia, two congressional districts have attracted a large number of Democratic primary candidates and are seen as competitive.

The 7th District, which includes parts of Prince William County, Stafford County, and Spotsylvania, is up for grabs because its current representative, Democrat Abigail Spanberger, is running for governor.

The Democratic primary for the 7th District includes seven candidates, but Eugene Vindman has raised the most money by far. Vindman is an Army veteran who along with his twin brother blew the whistle on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

The 10th District, which includes Loudoun County and parts of Prince William County, has attracted 12 Democratic primary candidates. Its current representative, Democrat Jennifer Wexton, is retiring for health reasons.

With so many candidates in each race, it is hard to say who will win these primary races. Early voting began May 3 and runs until June 15. The primary election day is June 18. Register to vote here.

“It’s really hard to say what’s going to happen because typically these early to mid-summer primaries elicit a low turnout rate,” Rozell said.

Trump loyalty test in Central Virginia

Virginia’s 5th District is a reliably Republican one, but the primary race will show just how strong Trump’s stranglehold over the party is.

Republican Bob Good currently represents the 5th District, which includes parts of Albemarle County and Charlottesville. He is facing a Trump-aligned challenger in the form of state Sen. John McGuire.

Good endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary, drawing Trump’s ire. Should McGuire beat Good in the primary it would be further evidence of Trump’s influence on the Republican party, said Marty Cohen, a James Madison University political science professor.

“One would not expect someone like Bob Good to draw a primary challenge from the right, but here we are with John McGuire,” said Cohen. “It is not really an ideological challenge but a loyalty challenge.”

 

  • Michael O'Connor

    Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering Virginia news since 2013 with reporting stints at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia Business, and Richmond BizSense. A graduate of William & Mary and Northern Virginia Community College, he also covered financial news for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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