Rep. Elaine Luria failed in her bid for reelection in what was slated to be one of the tightest races for Congress and toughest tests for Democrats like her — the Hampton Roads’ suburban 2nd District.
Republican Jen Kiggans won 149,759, or 52% of votes cast, to Luria’s 137,841, or 48%, with more than 95% 44.9%, according to unofficial state Department of Election tallies.
Luria conceded shortly after 11 p.m., after Virginia Beach’s tally of early votes broke for her but not in large enough numbers to erase Kiggans’ early lead.
"I think we all know our work is just beginning, the things we are fighting for the values that we share, we’ll be out there again, fighting the fight," she told supporters.
Kiggans said her win was "not the victory of a political party; what we are celebrating is the victory of a new day for our commonwealth and our country."
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The race came down to a test of how suburbs that usually vote Republican reacted to the overturning of Roe v. Wade-guaranteed abortion rights, as well as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that followed a rally where Trump repeated his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Luria, a member of the Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, stressed both issues hard.
Kiggans said the real issue was inflation and Luria’s support of the agendas of President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“I see a country that has become injured under the policies of Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Elaine Luria, who has voted with their policies 99% of the time,” Kiggans told an audience of Hampton Roads business leaders.
“I’m not your candidate if you think that you know what’s best for women better than allowing them to make a choice,” Luria said.
“I’m not your candidate if you think the 2020 election was stolen; I’m not your candidate if you think $70 million of state taxpayer money needs to go for an audit of the 2020 election,” Luria repeated back, referring to Kiggans’ vote in February for such a measure.
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The race was also a test of Virginia’s 2021 redistricting.
The 2nd has long tended to lean Republican, but it hasn’t been a lock. Of seven members of Congress who represented the district since 2000, four were Republicans and three, including Luria, were Democrats.
Redistricting made the 2nd even more Republican. It now stretches from the eastern end of rural Southampton County to include all of Isle of Wight County, the city of Suffolk, most of Chesapeake, all of Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore.
Redistricting after the 2020 election, which Luria won with 51.6% of votes cast, lopped off Democratic-leaning precincts in Norfolk and Williamsburg, which gave her about 9,600 more votes than GOP challenger Scott Taylor.
But redistricting also took away Republican strongholds in York County and Poquoson.
Luria also lost parts of Hampton and James City County, the same kind of suburban neighborhoods that often lean Republican but, like Virginia Beach in 2020, swung Democratic.
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In 2020, Biden won Virginia Beach with a 117,393 margin of roughly 12,300; Luria won fewer votes in the city but racked up an even bigger margin of 13,800.
Meanwhile, Republican-leaning parts of Chesapeake, as well as Isle of Wight and part of Southampton, were added to the 2nd, as were Democratic-leaning Suffolk and Franklin.
In 2021, the district went decisively Republican, giving Gov. Glenn Youngkin 55% of votes cast, or a 32,600-vote margin over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, with a large swing in Virginia Beach, where Youngkin won 86,844 votes for a 13,100-vote margin over his opponent.
This year, with Kiggans’ 80,033 votes in the city eked out a 549 margin over Luria on a total turnout that was less than the 2021 gubernatoral election and just 70% of the city’s total vote in the 2020 and 2018 elections Luria won.
Both candidates are Navy veterans and believe the 2nd District race may be the first that pits two female former sailors against each other. Kiggans, a nurse practitioner, was a helicopter pilot and was elected to the state Senate in 2019; Luria, elected to Congress in 2018, was one of the first women in the Navy’s nuclear power program and served on combatant ships.