“We’ve taken a massive step closer to bringing new representation to our district,” said Abigail Spanberger after accepting the Democratic nomination for Virginia’s 7th District.
Winning handily in a lopsided Democratic primary election against former Marine Corps Colonel Dan Ward, Spanberger will now go on to challenge Republican Congressman Dave Brat in a race that will be watched nationally.
While this is Spanberger’s first foray into elected politics, she is no stranger to government service, having begun her career as a federal law enforcement officer with the US Postal Inspection Service before becoming an operations officer with the CIA.
Spanberger has been clear about why she is running for elected office, telling MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt only last month that it was about cutting through the toxic politics.
“I think a major motivator for a lot of us as first time candidates is just changing the conversation completely, bringing civility back to the discourse that’s happening in Washington, and ensuring that we’re working for the people.”
After her victory today, she spoke in front of a crowd of about 200 supporters at the Westin Hotel in Henrico, saying, “Democracy is not a spectator support. Together, we are standing up for what is right.”
Many high-profile members of Virginia’s Democratic Party were also at the event, including Richmond’s Mayor Levar Stoney. Stoney told us he was optimistic about Spanberger’s odds in the general, saying, “Abigail will be a formidable opponent for Congressman Brat and I look forward to her success in November. She has a profile and she has a heart, and that goes a long way in elections.”
Event attendees were also buzzing with excitement. Carrie Pruett, a volunteer for Spanberger, was quick to talk about how she was motivated by Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016. “You could tell she wasn’t doing this for a photo op,” Pruett said, adding, “She’s found a way to stay true to her principles as a Democrat and also speak in a broad way to people looking for answers.”
Another supporter of Spanberger, David Parsons, said he was supporting the former CIA agent because of her stance on health care.
“Three weeks after retirement my wife was diagnosed with cancer,” he said. He described the current state of the health care system as causing him “continuous anxiety,” and expressed confidence that Spanberger would “stay true to her promise of proposing legislation to reform health care.”
In her victory speech, Spanberger told supporters that a change is coming to the 7th District. “I commit to carrying our message into the halls of Congress next year,” she said, adding that it was time for politicians to prioritize people over special interests. “With everything that’s at stake right now we cannot let up.”
She now faces the formidable task of toppling Republican incumbent and tea-party darling Dave Brat in November. Brat, a former economics professor at Randolph Macon College, won in a historic upset against then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014.
Landon Shroder contributed to this report.