US House Races/Virginia

Report by Bruce Driver from Indivisible North Boulder

Virginia District 02:

Candidates are Scott Taylor (incumbent R) and Elaine Luria (D)

Taylor, a former Navy Seal and Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, campaigned as a moderate in his first run for Congress in 2016 but, once in Congress, has voted with Trump 99% of the time.  He is a real estate broker. Among other things, he has an “A” rating from the NRA, voted to repeal/replace Obamacare but says he is against eliminating the DACA program. He had $898,000 cash on hand in May.

Luria served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, rising to the rank of Commander.   She has a BS in Physics from the U.S. Naval Academy and a Masters in Engineering Management from Old Dominion.  She is pro-choice, wants to ban assault weapons, explicitly wants to “protect the planet” by incentivizing green technologies, is a “no” on repeal of Obamacare, is for equal pay for equal work and other progressive policies as well as advocating for a strong and ready military in this military district.   She presents her positions on her webpage in an innovative way (for example, placing “animal welfare,” a “strong military” and preserving social security under “Security,” along with “Equality” and “Prosperity,” her three “core values.”) She was a Republican until recently and even voted for Taylor in 2016, but Trump and Taylor’s about-face once in Congress, she says, ruined the GOP for her.   She had $227,000 cash on hand in May.

Description of District:  This is Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, parts of Norfolk and Hampton and, across the Chesapeake, that part of the Delmarva Peninsula that belongs to Virginia.   It is home to the nation’s largest naval base and is 93% urban, has a Household Median Income (HMI) of $67,000, is 67% White, 20% Black, 5% Asian and 8% Hispanic.  It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+3 and is said by Cook to “lean R” in this fall’s election. Trump beat Hillary 48% to 45% in 2016.

Summary: I think Luria is an exceptional candidate for this district, but she has only about one-fourth the amount of cash on hand as her opponent.   She needs and deserves our help.


Virginia District 05  

Candidates are Leslie Cockburn (D) and Denver Riggleman (R). This is an open district, the Republican incumbent, citing alcohol addiction, retiring at the end of his term.

Cockburn is an unusual candidate for a rural district, having bought a farm with her husband in Rappahanock County in the western part of the district in 1999.   She has a bachelor’s degree from Yale and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She is a former investigative journalist for NBC, CBS and PBS Frontline and is the producer of several TV documentaries on multiple subjects, including terrorism and the 2008 financial meltdown, as well as the winner of several awards for her work.  Her politics are progressive. She favors Medicare for All, argues for re-engagement domestically and internationally on climate change, free community college, reproductive freedom and access to contraceptives for women, looks to investments in clean energy to fill the economic hole in the district created by the demise of tobacco and textiles and wants criminal justice reform.   She had $271,000 cash on hand in May.

Riggleman was only recently selected by the R district assembly to substitute for Garrett.   There is very little info about him on the web. He has never run for office before.  He owns a distillery (ironic for a guy replacing a congressman with alcohol problems).  He is also a vet, having served in the Air Force. He has praised Garrett for his “pristine conservative record” in the House, which Riggleman says he looks forward to continuing.   He is said to be a libertarian-leaning conservative who supports gay marriage. There is no info on his cash on hand.

Description of District:  This a large swath of mostly-rural Virginia, from the outer suburbs to the SW of DC, where it is narrow, to the border with North Carolina, where the district is wide.    It has an HMI of $52,000 and is 75% White, 20% Black, 2% Asian and 3% Hispanic. It has a PVI of R+6 and Cook rates it as “lean R.” It includes the cities of Charlottesville and Danville.

Summary: It would be hard to find a race with two candidates with such different backgrounds.  Cockburn is cosmopolitan, with a broad background and high profile in national and international media.   Riggleman is a small businessman with a military background. Yet he may be the front-runner, given the overall rural and conservative character of the district.  And will Cockburn’s background turn off the voters? Maybe, but she would be great to have in Congress and deserves our support. Charlottesville will have to turn out in big numbers for her to win.   This one will be interesting to watch.


Virginia District 10  

Candidates are Barbara Comstock (incumbent R) and Jennifer Wexton (D).

Comstock is a two-term incumbent in Congress after serving six years in the Virginia House of Delegates.   She is a founding partner of a consulting firm and has held staff positions in the House and in the Executive branch.   While she voted against the R’s replacement for Obamacare, she voted with Trump 98% of the time. She voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for the tax cut legislation, for concealed-carry reciprocity, for circumscribing the EPA Science Advisory Board, for offshore drilling in Virginia and for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.   She is no moderate. She had $1.7 million cash on hand in May.

Wexton is a lawyer associated with a firm in Leesburg and has been a Virginia State Senator since 2014.  She has also been a Substitute Judge in Loudon County and an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney. Her website describes a consistent progressive with a lot of energy.   As she said she did in the House of Delegates, she will fight against voter suppression and racial gerrymandering. As traffic congestion is a big problem in northern Virginia, she says she’ll advocate for new, green infrastructure (not sure what that is).  She supports women’s reproductive freedom and access to contraceptives. She’ll fight against discrimination against the LGBTQ community, for comprehensive immigration reform, for protection of Dreamers and against the Wall. She will advocate for strong climate-change measures, wants to adhere to the Paris Agreement and opposes drilling off of the Virginia coast.  She received a “Legislative Hero” award for her work in the Virginia House of Delegates by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. She had $684,000 cash on hand in May.

Description of District:  This district runs from suburbs to the W and SW of DC to the West Virginia and Maryland borders to the West and North.   It includes the towns of McLean and Manassas in the East and city of Winchester in the West. It has an HMI of $120,000, making it the richest district in the U.S. except for Silicon Valley.  It is 86% urban, 72% White, 7% Black, 14% Asian and 14% Hispanic. Hillary won by 10% in 2016. Cook gives it a PVI of D+1 and rates the race a “toss-up.”

Summary: Wexton would be a clear improvement over Comstock.  However, Comstock is no pushover. She is known as a tireless campaigner and a survivor in a district that has been trending more Democratic.   She also has a lot more money than Wexton and will, no doubt, attract additional support from the business community. Wexton can win in this “toss-up” district, though, especially if progressives strongly support her.