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Opinion/Editorial: Spanberger, Luria GOP challengers offer different profiles

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To understand who and what the winners of Tuesday’s Seventh and Second District Republican primaries will represent in Congress, we looked at their policy positions and the people who endorsed them.

Republicans Yesli Vega and Jen Kiggans seek to defeat incumbent Democrats Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria, respectively.

Vega, a conservative member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, will take on Spanberger for the Seventh District seat. Vega comes with the blessing of Fifth District Republican Rep. Bob Good. Good promotes Donald Trump’s Big Lie about 2020 election fraud. Good hangs out in Congress with crackpots Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Bobert, and other fringe dwellers of the House Freedom Caucus.

Also on Vega’s list of endorsers is former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart. Neo-Nazi White nationalist and Charlottesville Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler endorsed Stewart’s candidacy.

Ken Cuccinelli, a top Trump administration immigration advisor, endorsed Vega. The Atlantic magazine reports that Cuccinelli, a one-time Virginia attorney general, was known for “trying to eliminate birthright citizenship, questioning whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and proposing to make speaking Spanish on the job a fireable offense.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas showed up and endorsed Vega at a rally just before Tuesday’s primary. Cruz’s reaction to the mass shooting of 19 fourth graders in a Texas elementary school was not limiting access to guns by screening buyers, but limiting access to schools by reducing the number of doors.

Vega does not support a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy.

She works in law enforcement, but her campaign platform on gun control is simple: “Our right to keep and bear arms must never be infringed.”

Vega is obviously the darling of far-right Republicans. So voters in the Seventh District will have a distinct choice.

In Virginia’s Second District, Kiggans, a state senator from Virginia Beach, is a much more traditional Republican candidate. Kiggans beat Bob Good’s choice in the primary, Jarome Bell, a candidate who once said voter fraud should be punished by execution.

GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Kiggans knowing he needed a moderate canddiate to have the best chance of taking the district back from Democrats.

Kiggans, a nurse practitioner and former Navy helicopter pilot, enjoys the support of former Republican governors George Allen, Jim Gilmore and Bob McDonnell.

She also received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. This makes her beholden to the NRA, which currently opposes bipartisan legislation to increase background checks on young gun purchasers in the wake of mass shootings by teenagers in Texas and Buffalo, N.Y.

On her website, Kiggans chooses to make LGBTQ+ issues a centerpiece of her campaign. The first issue she lists is “transgenderism in our schools.”

This wedge issue comes before “sanctity of life,” “holding China accountable,” “stopping the crisis at the border,” “defending the Second Amendment,” “reforming healthcare,” “delivering for veterans,” “prioritizing national security,” “growing jobs & the economy,” “improving education & our schools,” “protecting Medicare and Social Security,” “law enforcement & public safety,” and “cutting inflation & the cost of living.”

Prominently listing a wedge issue that affects a negligible number of students could signal a culture war campaign by Kiggans, similar to the one Republican Glenn Youngkin mounted when he used race and opposition to COVID mandates to win Virginia’s governor’s race.

Kiggans will need to generate controversy in a district where the Democratic incumbent is an ex-Navy officer and a political moderate who has worked effectively on most of the policy issues Kiggans lists, especially increasing military funding critical to the district.

What likely will determine the Second District election will be voter reaction to Luria’s membership on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack. The committee’s evidence has exposed criminal behavior and lies about election fraud spread by Donald Trump and other Republicans.

Luria could lose if voters don’t care about those crimes and lies. If voters do care, Kiggans’ LGBTQ+ distraction may not be enough to win.

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