By Brandon Jarvis
The VA-07 House of Representatives district in Central Virginia has always been a reliably-red district. They have not had Democratic representation since 1971 when John Marsh Jr. retired his position. Marsh was eventually the U.S. Secretary of the Army from 1981-1989. The political climate of the past few years however, has brought about a brand new dynamic to elections. Today, the left feels emboldened and the right feels persecuted; tomorrow it could be the complete opposite. Candidates are being tied to Trump, or to other candidates that are Trump-like. In some districts, the Trump effect might help – in others it might hurt. Regardless, the 7th district seat has been held by a Republican for the last 47 years – is it possible that that could change in November? Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball along with the Cook Political Report recently moved their prediction for the district from ‘leans-Republican’ to a ‘toss up’. We broke down some of the reasons that we believe this appears to be evolving politically.
First for reference:
The district consists of Richmond-area suburbs to the west of the city. The population for the district in 2016 was 775,369 with 72% being white, 17% black, 7% hispanic, and 5% asian. The median income of the district is close to $73,000, which is higher than the statewide median of a little more than $68,000.
Dave Brat made national headlines back in 2014 when he beat the Republican incumbent in a primary for the Republican nomination. Brat accused the incumbent, Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader of being disconnected from his district. Polling one week before the election showed Cantor leading by close to 30 points. Brat ran as a Tea-Party candidate and was backed by grass-roots tea party groups as well. He was also supported by popular conservative figures like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham.
Four years later and Brat is one of the more-conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives. Trump referenced Brat when the presidential candidate campaigned in Richmond in 2016. He drew a comparison to Brat’s defeat of the establishment candidate, while implying he could achieve the same goal. “There’s a guy who shows you, you can do things.”
In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia declared the electoral maps in Virginia unconstitutional. The judges believe that Republicans grouped black people together into 1-single district, limiting their influence in other electorate districts.
“The Republicans engaged in impermissible racial gerrymandering in a cynical effort to gain seats. . . . We look forward to the state doing a new redistricting to comply with the court’s orders.” Said Marc Elias, a lawyer arguing in favor of the redraw in 2014.
The 7th district was 77% white and 15% black prior to January 2016, when the map was redrawn. With the redistricting, the district became 72% white and 19% black, and 7% hispanic.
Brat lost Hanover County and New Kent County in the redraw – a big base of his support from Tea Party followers. The 7th however, picked up Amelia, Nottoway, and Powhatan. All three of those areas are historically red, but they are not as populated as Hanover.
2014 Election before the redraw in counties that were removed:
- 70% in Hanover with 26,933 of the votes
- 70% in New Kent with 4,979 of the votes
2016 election results with new areas included in the district after the redraw:
- 70% in Amelia with 4,806 of the votes
- 75% in Powhatan with 12,495 of the votes
- 59.5% Nottoway with 3,852 of the votes
Hanover and New Kent made up 21% of the votes for Brat in the 2014 election. Amelia, Nottoway, and Powhatan only made up 10% of the votes for Brat with the new map in 2016.
Brat received 31,912 votes in 2014 in the precincts that he lost in the redraw, while receiving 21,153 votes in the 2016 election after the redraw resulting in a 10,759 vote difference.
Brat received 60.8% in the 2014 election and in 2016 he received 57.5%, however he received 100K more votes due to it being a presidential election. President Trump received 51% of the vote in the district – receiving roughly 39 thousand fewer votes than Brat.
Corey Stewart is at the top of the ticket
With a lead among women topping 2-1, Virginia U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic incumbent, has an overall lead of 54% – 36% over Republican challenger Corey Stewart.
When asked on the John Fredericks Show, Congressman Brat was asked if he will support the nazi-sympathizer Senate candidate Corey Stewart. “Fascism requires a total state, right? If you want a huge state, the Democrat [sic] Party wants a huge state moving towards socialism, now with the Cortez victory…and I want a small state. I never get into the drama…I of course reject any sort of bigotry, discrimination, etc. in any way, shape or form.”
Congressman Brat, along with his Republican colleagues have been repeatedly prodded to find out if they will support Corey Stewart. He hasn’t been out stumping for Stewart on the campaign trail as of yet, but he also hasn’t stated if he ever will.
Stewart nearly won the Republican nomination for governor in 2017 with the biggest piece of his platform being preserving confederate monuments. He was the lone Virginia Republican to not condemn the white nationalists actions on August 12th. He blamed “half the violence” on counter-protesters. He also criticized fellow Republicans who condemned the white nationalists and said that there was “no reason” for the Republican party to apologize.
Stewart spoke out in front of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville over protestors calling for its removal. “They have no respect for our heritage,” he said, calling the Confederate general “a great American.”
With the GOP chairman resigning amid a statewide Stewart Senate run, the Republicans in Virginia are scrambling to get their bearings straight heading into the general election in November. The Democrats have taken a statewide approach adopting a ‘Unified marketplace for campaign volunteers’. Tim Kaine is also using his popularity and clout while making appearances with Democrats across the state.
Abigail Spanberger will be the Democratic candidate facing Dave Brat in November. Spanberger launched her campaign in the July of 2017 stating that she decided she wanted to run for Congress when the House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Spanberger handily beat a primary candidate in Dan Ward that was well-funded and well-respected in the Democratic party. Spanberger has raised $903,000 to Brat’s $913,000. The DCCC put Spanberger on their list of top tier Democratic candidates heading into the 2018 mid-terms.
Spanberger has received national attention with MSNBC appearances and appearing among other female icons on the cover of the ‘The Avengers’ issue for Time magazine.
Spanberger has appeared at over 100 meet-and-greets across the district in the past year. “With your help, we will flip the 7th district.” said Abigail, to a hotel ballroom full of supporters the night of the June 12th Primary. David Southall, a former Republican who says he canvassed for Brat in past elections told Richmond 2day that he will now be voting for Spanberger. “Since I voted for him twice in November of ’14, once to finish cantor’s term and again as this successor, he’s failed to fulfill his promises.”
Spanberger has also received a large amount of grassroots support from groups like the LWCC.
The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County, is a powerful group from within the district founded after the election of Donald Trump. This group is a strong force helping the Democrats in Central Virginia. The Washington Post credited this group with helping Chesterfield vote for a Democratic Governor in 2017 for the first time since 1961.
We reached out to both campaigns for their thoughts on the shift in predictions from political analysts. A spokeswoman for Congressman Brat said “Rep. Brat is not going to the lose the 7th to someone championing socialist-tinged policies and who will become a Nancy Pelosi sycophant on Day 1 of her tenure in the House.” We must note that in an interview with John Fredericks at the end of June, Spanberger said she would not support Pelosi for House Speaker.
— John Fredericks (@jfradioshow) June 28, 2018
A spokesperson for Abigail Spanberger said “The recent rating changes confirm what we’ve been seeing on the ground for months: voters of the 7th district are hungry for new leadership. They want a leader who is eager to meet with residents, discuss the issues that matter most to them, and work towards common-sense solutions that improve lives and increase opportunity. Our grassroots energy continues to swell and this is why we have more than 1,800 registered volunteers and continue to outraise Congressman Brat.”