Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger has hinted at a run for the highest office in the commonwealth. Again.
“Right now, I am focused on being a congresswoman for the 7th District and visiting my incredibly interesting constituents all over,” the Democrat told The Daily Progress Monday while on a tour of the construction site in Orange County where Macmillan Publishers is expanding its U.S. distribution center.
Asked if that answer would be different after the Virginia state house elections this November, Spanberger was more direct: “Yes.”
“I’ll talk to you then,” she added.
In the meantime, the planks of a Spanberger platform have already started to take shape.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin — who is term-limited and cannot run again in 2025 — and other Republicans have pushed “parents’ rights” in the classroom. In April of 2022, Youngkin signed a law regulating the content in school libraries and ensuring “parental notification of any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content.”
Already, school divisions have removed dozens of books from the shelves. In Spotsylvania earlier this year, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky and “Water for Elephants” by Sarah Gruen, among others, were removed. And in Madison County, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “It” by Stephen King and several more Toni Morrison novels were taken out.
Touring the site where New York-based Macmillan Publishers, considered one of the largest English language book publishers, is expanding its facility off James Madison Highway, Spanberger said politicians should steer clear of anything that smacks of book banning, as many have characterized the Republican-led initiative.
“I don’t think that it’s the place of certainly not a federal lawmaker, and I would argue not the chief executive of the state or the General Assembly to be limiting books,” Spanberger said. “I think there is years’ worth of professional experience among librarians and teachers coming together to determine what are the topics, and the ideas, and the books that can help enrich the learning environment for students.”
Spanberger asserted Youngkin’s policy is ineffective and misguided.
Asked what she would do if she was seated in the Executive Mansion in Richmond, Spanberger said she’d take a different approach.
“They [lawmakers in Richmond] don’t know my child, and you know they’re not professionals. So ultimately, it’s up to librarians, teachers, you know, to determine what should potentially be available, but ultimately, it’s a choice for parents and for kids,” she said.
Spanberger and Youngkin agree that parents have a say in what content their children consume, the question is how much of a say they have over what other children consume.
“I don’t think it’s a place for legislators to be dictating to school districts,” Spanberger said. “I know what my children are bringing home, I know what my children are reading and if there’s something that I perhaps think might be too scary or too touchy or something that’s outside of my individual children’s outlooks and personalities, that’s a choice I get to make as a parent, but I get to make that as the parent and with wonderful suggestions and opportunities.”
She went on to say, “Books, whether they’re textbooks or fiction or nonfiction, are the gateway to understanding people. It is vitally important that kids and students have access to the diversity of books, the richness of books of literature. Students should have access to all of it.”
The former CIA officer and centrist Democrat was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2019.
She’s been a fundraising powerhouse since she entered politics. In the 2022 election cycle, she raised almost $9 million. She’s also tallied $1.2 million this year for her congressional reelection.
Spanberger’s seat in the House of Representatives is considered crucial to Democrats who hope to regain control of the lower chamber in Washington.
The suggestion that she might make a run for governor has excited not just Democrats in her following but Republicans eager to reclaim her district.
Rich Anderson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, told The Daily Progress that the “trial balloon” Spanberger has released could signal an opening for his party in 2024.
“This would be a win-win for Virginia Republicans, because we have a stable of quality candidates who will likely seek the governorship in 2025, preceded in 2024 by an equally attractive slate of Republican candidates,” he wrote in an email.
If she does decide to run she could face competition from other Democratic leaders who have also hinted at a bid, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and former Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn of Springfield.
Youngkin cannot run again, but there are rumblings in Richmond that both Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares are laying the groundwork for what could be a very competitive Republican primary.