Anya Sczerzenie, Staff Writer
With absentee ballots missing from the total count, Democrat incumbent Sen. Abigail Spanberger and Republican Del. Nick Freitas are neck-and-neck in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.
The race between Freitas and Spanberger was projected to be close on Nov. 2 by Politico’s 2020 election forecast, which called the decision a “toss-up.”
As of Tuesday night, according to the Virginia Department of Elections, Freitas held 49.95% of votes just over Spanberger’s 49.89% with 228 precincts of 232 reporting. The elections department stated Tuesday that results will continue to be counted through Friday afternoon and possibly throughout the weekend. Localities will certify their results Nov. 10.
“We still got a ways to go,” Freitas said to supporters at an election night watch party.
FiveThirtyEight, a poll analysis site, predicted on Nov. 3 that there is a 79% chance of Spanberger winning reelection and a 21% chance that Freitas will win. The site also predicted that Spanberger would win 53% of the total vote, while Nick Freitas would win 46%.
“As we continue to monitor the results and wait for every vote to be counted, I want to take a moment to thank all of you for your tremendous support!” Spanberger wrote in a tweet.
Freitas is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates’ 30th District representing Culpeper. He has been described as having “a conservative voting record and libertarian streak” by U.S. News & World Report, and is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. A U.S. Army veteran, Freitas worked in defense contracting until he was elected to the House of Delegates in 2016.
Freitas’ campaign experienced an early challenge over the summer when he was almost barred from running in the Republican primary after submitting paperwork late. However, after winning 57% of the vote in the primary as a write-in candidate, he was allowed to be on the November ballot.
In an interview with CBS 19 in Culpeper, Freitas said the main issue facing his district is the coronavirus. He said he wants to prioritize healthcare for at-risk communities and help small businesses survive the crisis by not imposing additional taxes or regulations. He also said he was against defunding the police.
The 7th District includes rural and suburban Central Virginian counties, located west of Richmond. Republicans held the district for more than 40 years before Spanberger was elected in 2018, defeating former Rep. Dave Brat, who held the seat from 2014-19.
Spanberger, who grew up in Henrico County, is considered a moderate Democrat. She focuses on bipartisanship and voted against the Democrat-backed HEROES Act, a coronavirus relief package, because she found it too partisan.
“My focus remains on working with Democrats and Republicans to get relief to my district immediately, and partisan gamesmanship will not do it,” said Spanberger in an Oct. 1st press release. “Just as I opposed the first Heroes Act, I will respectfully vote against this package.”
Spanberger is also a member of the “March to Common Ground” caucus, made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, which is aiming to create a bipartisan COVID-19 relief plan.
Spanberger aims to help families in Central Virginia by lowering prescription drug prices and increasing broadband internet access. Her website also says that she is concerned about national security, citing her experience in the CIA.
Opponents of Abigail Spanberger focused a negative ad campaign on Spanberger’s long-term substitute teaching stint at an Islamic school in Alexandria, Virginia. Spanberger taught English at the Islamic Saudi Academy from 2002-03 while she was waiting for security clearance to work as a CIA agent.
The school was founded in the 1980s by the government of Saudi Arabia and closed in 2016. Republicans called the school “Terror High,” as several students who went there supported Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden. Spanberger has since said she did not know or teach those students. The ad campaign also ran in 2018 during Spanberger’s campaign against Brat.
Some negative ads against Freitas focused on his vote against a 2019 bill requiring insurance plans to cover autism-related medical care for people of all ages. Previously, coverage for autism only extended to an autistic child’s 11th birthday. When the General Assembly took bipartisan, unanimous action to extend this coverage, Freitas was the only delegate who voted against it.
District 7 was redrawn in 2011 and is now less Republican than it has been in the past. It is 72% white, 19% Black, 5% Asian and 4% of other races. The district includes Chesterfield, Henrico, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Louisa, Orange, Powhatan, Goochland, Amelia, and Nottoway counties.
Results for this race are as of 4:13 a.m. on Wednesday. Election updates and results will be posted on commonwealth times.org.