Kiggans Wins, Vega Leads in Key Virginia Republican Congressional Primaries

All 11 Virginia congressional incumbents—seven Democrats and four Republicans—will be defending their seats in November against a slate of challengers who earned their ballot berths in conventions or by defeating party rivals in the commonwealth’s June 21 primaries.

That roster includes Republican primary winners in two “tossup” congressional districts where incumbents are regarded among the most likely sitting Democrats to be unseated this fall.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections’ Republican primary webpage, Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot and now a full-time geriatric nurse, ousted three fellow veterans to earn the Republican Congressional District 2 (CD 2) ballot berth in November.

In the other closely-watched GOP primary, Prince William Board Supervisor Yesli I. Vega and “outsider” Derrick Anderson were neck-and-neck in a six-candidate pack in a CD 7 race too close to call in the hours after voting ended.

Kiggans said she campaigned for 14 months and found voters of all political persuasions responsive to her conservative message. She said she will hammer Democrats on the economy.

“The economy, the economy, the economy is the number one issue,” she said. “Virginians are as frustrated, as all Americans are, with gas, grocery prices at all-time highs, and the economy in shambles. It is time to put conservative Republicans back in charge” to foil the “danger and insanity of one-party rule” under Democrats.

Kiggans was the favored candidate in the primary in terms of money raised and spent, and media exposure. She warded off an aggressive campaign by Jarome Bell, a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer, who called her “a globalist establishment RINO, a professional politician” and declared himself the only true America First candidate in the race.

Tommy Altman, a U.S. Air Force special operations Iraq/Afghanistan veteran, and Andy Baan, a retired Navy captain awarded the Bronze Star in Iraq, finished third and fourth in the CD 2 GOP primary.

Kiggans will square off in November’s general election against Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who did not face a primary challenge. Luria also is a veteran, retiring from the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant commander.

The Luria campaign’s June 1 Federal Election Committee (FEC) filing reported it had $3.38 million in cash on hand, ready to spend on retaining her seat.

Analysts say the state assembly’s post-2020 Census revamp of CD 2 benefitted Republicans. The Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) rates it as the nation’s ultimate “median district,” with 217 district regarded as more Democrat and 217 as more Republican.

Virginia’s CD 2 and CD 7 are among 22 congressional districts nationwide occupied by incumbent Democrats that the CPVI rates as “tossup” contests in fall’s 2022 midterm elections.

In CD 7, Vega, a sheriff’s deputy who led Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Latinos for Youngkin campaign, was leading Anderson in a crowded primary where four candidates were registering at least 19.6 percent of the vote.

An attorney and U.S. Army ‘Green Beret’ special forces veteran of six Afghanistan and Iraq combat deployments, Anderson ran a grassroots campaign as an“outsider” that captured national attention, endorsements, and financial support.

“Virginians are tired of seeing the same people doing the same things,” he said on June 18 while door-knocking in Spotsylvania. “People in Virginia are ready for new faces, new ideas.”

Trailing but still in contention to capture the party’s CD 7 ballot berth is Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves, a former high school football coach, narcotics officer, and U.S. Army veteran who campaigned on his decade-long record as an effective legislator.

Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch was also down but not out. With the backing of area law enforcement officers and organizations, she also cited her record as an elected official who gets things done.

Vanuch also largely self-funded her campaign with a $400,000 commitment from her own pocket. “I am the only candidate putting my own money where my mouth is,” she said.

The winner will take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who did not face a primary challenger. A former CIA officer seeking a third term, Spanberger’s June 1 FEC campaign filing reported $4 million in cash on hand.

Analysts say the state assembly’s post-2020 Census revamp of CD 7 benefitted Republicans in excluding areas of suburban Richmond that served as Spanberger’s Glen Allen base when she flipped the central Virginia district blue in 2018.

FiveThirtyEight gauges CD 7 as “highly competitive,” with the purple district receiving a nominal +2 Democrat “lean.” CPVI rates the district as “a tossup.”

John Haughey

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John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.

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