|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Virginia's 7th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Dave Brat|
Abigail Anne Davis
August 7, 1979
Red Bank, New Jersey, U.S.
|Education||University of Virginia (BA)|
Purdue University (MBA)
Abigail Anne Spanberger (née Davis, August 7, 1979) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district since 2019. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Her district includes most of the northern suburbs of Richmond, as well as some exurban territory around Fredericksburg.
Spanberger defeated Republican incumbent Dave Brat in 2018, ending a 36-year hold on the district by the Republican Party. She was reelected to a second term in 2020. She has been categorized as a moderate Democrat by commentators.
Early life and education
Abigail Spanberger was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, on August 7, 1979. When she was 13, her family relocated to the Short Pump area in Henrico County, outside Richmond, Virginia. She attended Tucker High School. Spanberger was later a page for Democratic U.S. Senator Chuck Robb.
Spanberger earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia and a Master of Business Administration from a joint program between the GISMA Business School in Germany and Purdue University's Krannert School of Management.
In 2002 and 2003, Spanberger taught English literature as a substitute teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia. In the early 2000s, Spanberger worked as a federal postal inspector on money laundering cases, as well as intercepting shipments of illegal drugs into the United States.
In 2006, Spanberger joined the Central Intelligence Agency as an operations officer. She worked overseas on classified matters of national security that included intelligence gathering on terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
U.S. House of Representatives
In July 2017, Spanberger announced her candidacy for the United States House of Representatives in Virginia's 7th congressional district in the 2018 election against incumbent Republican, Dave Brat, a Tea Party movement member. She made the final decision to run after the Republican majority House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On June 12, 2018, Spanberger defeated Dan Ward in the primary election for the Democratic Party nomination with 73% of the vote, receiving more votes than any other candidate in the Virginia primaries that day. Her campaign out-raised Brat's.
In August, Spanberger became subject to a smear campaign conducted by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely aligned with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. The smear campaign, which attempted to tie her to terrorism, was based on an SF-86 application she completed to obtain security clearance, which was inappropriately released in breach of privacy rules. She won the seat by a narrow margin on November 6, defeating Brat by just over 6,600 votes. While Brat won eight of the district's ten counties, Spanberger dominated the two largest counties, Henrico and Chesterfield, by a combined margin of over 30,000 votes.
Spanberger's victory ended a 36-year hold on the district by the GOP. Tom Bliley had won the district, then numbered as the 3rd (it has been the 7th since 1993) in 1983, and was succeeded by future House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2001. Brat defeated Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. The district had been one of the first in the South to turn away from its Solid South Democratic roots. Supporters of the Byrd Organization, the conservative Democratic machine founded by former Governor and U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, had begun splitting their tickets as early as the 1930s. The district had not supported a Democrat for president since Harry S. Truman in 1948. As a measure of how strongly Republican this district had been, Spanberger was only the third Democrat to cross the 40 percent mark at the congressional level since 1984. In a visit to the district, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon described it as "an absolute bellwether of the entire country," adding that losing the district would mean the GOP losing control of the House.
Spanberger faced a close reelection contest in 2020 against State Delegate Nick Freitas, who represents much of the congressional district's northern portion. She ultimately prevailed with 51 percent of the vote to Freitas's 49 percent. Freitas carried eight of the district's ten counties, as Brat had done two years earlier. However, Spanberger prevailed by winning the district's shares of Henrico and Chesterfield County by a combined 43,400 votes, five times her overall margin of 8,400 votes. She was also boosted by Joe Biden narrowly carrying the district; Biden is the first Democrat to win what is now the 7th since 1948.
On November 5, 2020, days after winning reelection by a margin of 1.8%, Spanberger criticized the Democratic Party's strategy for the 2020 elections in a phone call with other Democratic Caucus members that was subsequently leaked. Calling the elections "a failure" from a Congressional standpoint, she singled out Republican attack ads decrying "socialism" and the movement to "defund the police", as prime reasons the Democratic Party lost seats in swing districts. She argued that Democrats should watch Republican ads before deciding how to talk about issues and "not ever use the word 'socialist' or 'socialism' ever again".
CNN political editor Chris Cillizza described Spanberger's remarks as "some hard truth" for the Democratic Party, adding that in order to succeed in the 2022 and 2024 elections, the party should "listen to the likes of Spanberger" instead of pushing for "the boldest possible progressive legislation". Spanberger's remarks were disputed by Pelosi, who noted that Democrats kept the House, and progressive Representative Rashida Tlaib, who said the Democratic Party should "study the results" before dismissing progressives who represent their districts. Washington Post digital editor James Downie criticized Spanberger's view, remarking that if a losing officeholder "couldn't manage to tie his or her Republican opponent to almost a quarter of a million COVID-19 deaths in the United States, a tanked economy or a dozen other policy fiascos, that's the candidate's fault." Downie quoted progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had noted in contrast that no swing-district House Democrat who co-sponsored Medicare-for-All lost their seat, and had remarked in reply to Spanberger's comments that "not a single member of Congress that I'm aware of campaigned on socialism or defunding the police in this general election."
Spanberger was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives for her first term on January 3, 2019. In the election for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on the opening day of the 116th United States Congress, Spanberger fulfilled a campaign pledge by voting for U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos, an Illinois Democrat, for Speaker, and joining 11 other Democrats who did not back Nancy Pelosi.
In January 2020, Spanberger sponsored the Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act, which passed the House unanimously. The bill would require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), who manage prescription drug benefits for health insurance companies, to publicize the rebates, discounts and price concessions they negotiate, via a website hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. She said that her bill would help reveal whether PBMs contribute to the increasing cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. and hoped to increase public awareness of drug pricing strategies. Spanberger also co-sponsored the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which grants Medicare Part D the power to negotiate directly with drug companies and help lower prescription prices.
In May 2020, Spanberger voted against the HEROES Act, a proposed $3 trillion stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that the bill went "far beyond" pandemic relief and had no chance of passing the Repubican-controlled Senate. In November 2020, Spanberger led a bipartisan effort to secure the 340B Drug Pricing Program against changes which would lead to significant increases in prescription medication costs.
- Committee on Agriculture
- Committee on Foreign Affairs
Spanberger has highlighted her bipartisanship in her campaign ads. She has broken with the Democratic Party on a number of issues. She voted to allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified when undocumented immigrants attempt to purchase firearms, and voted against the House budget in summer 2019 because it failed to acknowledge the growing national debt. She opposed Democrats' attempts to amend the Insurrection Act of 1807, saying that amending the rarely-used law would not accomplish what the Democrats intended.
Although not a member of Congress when it passed, Spanberger criticized the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act supported by President Donald Trump, arguing that its permanent tax cuts for corporations would increase the national debt.
Spanberger called climate change "one of the greatest and most imminent threats to our economy, our national security, and our way of life" and promised to "stand up to attacks against science." She described the Green New Deal proposed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a "bold compilation of ideas meant to address global climate change" but criticized it for allegedly including unrelated policy proposals and not identifying specific resolutions to the problems that it identifies. "Overall I am not a supporter of the Green New Deal," she said.
Spanberger supports the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She supports a public option for healthcare via the proposed Medicare-X Choice Act. In November 2020, she described reducing the cost of prescription drugs as "the top priority of families in [her] district".
Spanberger objected to President Trump's travel bans from certain predominantly Muslim countries and argued that they would aid in jihadist propaganda by allowing them to portray the United States as an anti-Muslim country. She has voiced her support for stronger border security measures but opposes Trump's proposed wall. She voted for a bill that included funding for border infrastructure, technology at ports of entry and more customs and border patrol agents. She said that she did not support "sanctuary cities" but also referred to the term as "a campaign slogan a lot of people get caught up in." She added that it "degrades the value of the conversation if we're not actually talking about what the real concern is." Spanberger called for a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who abide by the laws, work, and pay taxes.
President Donald Trump
According to FiveThirtyEight's congressional vote tracker, Spanberger votes with President Donald Trump 6.9% of the time—about one seventh of the expected tally (49.1%) when factoring in the district's partisan leaning and general partisanship in Congress. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump bested Hillary Clinton with 50% of the vote to her 44% in Spanberger's congressional district.
On September 23, 2019, Spanberger joined six other freshmen Democrats in the House with national security backgrounds in calling for an impeachment inquiry into Trump. They co-wrote an opinion editorial in The Washington Post explaining their support for an impeachment inquiry, writing: "Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election." They wrote that if the allegations were true, they amounted to "a flagrant disregard for the law" and "a threat to all we have sworn to protect." Spanberger later announced that she would vote in favor of impeachment. "The President’s actions violate his oath of office, endanger our national security, and betray the public trust," she said.
On June 1, 2020, Spanberger tweeted criticism of Trump's reaction to the George Floyd protests, a series of protests against police brutality that began in Minneapolis on May 26. On June 2, the Washington Post and New York Times quoted Spanberger and several other high-profile former CIA analysts' interpretations of Trump's reaction to the protests as being reminiscent of the reaction of totalitarian dictators on the brink of losing control of their dictatorships. "As a former CIA officer, I know this playbook, and I know the president's actions are betraying the very foundation of the rule of law he purports to support, the U.S. Constitution," she said. Spanberger had taken issue with Trump after police used tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protestors and a priest during the George Floyd protests in order to clear a path so that he could have a photo-op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.
|Republican||Dave Brat (incumbent)||169,295||48.40|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
|Democratic||Abigail Spanberger (incumbent)||230,893||50.82|
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- Election results from CNN
- Virginia presidential results by congressional district from Virginia Department of Elections
- Newsroom, NBC12. "Abigail Spanberger declares victory over Freitas in 7th Congressional District race". nbc12.com. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
- "Spanberger criticizes Democrats' strategy in caucus call". The Washington Post. November 5, 2020. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
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- CNN Wire. "Watch Abigail Spanberger swearing-in as new Congress begins". WTVR: Channel 6. Tribune Broadcasting. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
- Haas, Karen Lehman. "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 2: Election of the Speaker". Roll Call Votes: 116th Congress, 1st Session. Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
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- Sullivan, Heather (January 17, 2020). "Spanberger bill aims to shed light on prescription drug pricing". NBC12. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
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- Mattingly, Justin. "Spanberger opposes latest stimulus package, saying it 'goes far beyond pandemic relief'". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- "Spanberger leads bipartisan effort to save 340B Drug Pricing Program". Augusta Free Press. November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- "SPANBERGER SELECTED TO SERVE ON U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS & U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE". Office of Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
- "Peterson Announces House Agriculture Subcommittee Chairs for the 116th Congress". Archived from the original on January 30, 2019. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
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- "Press Release: Spanberger Pushes for Final Progress on USMCA: "We Need to Get this Done"". spanberger.house.gov.
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Representative Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, a former C.I.A. officer, called his response the type of action 'undertaken by authoritarian regimes throughout the world.'
Greg Miller (June 2, 2020). "CIA veterans who monitored crackdowns abroad see troubling parallels in Trump's handling of protests". Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 27, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
“As a former CIA officer, I know this playbook,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said in a tweet. Before her election to Congress last year, she worked at the agency on issues including terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Marcy Krelter (June 3, 2020). "George Floyd White House Protest: Donald Trump Acting Like Dictator During Racial Tensions, Intelligence And Defense Officials Warn". International Business Times. Archived from the original on July 5, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger accuses trump of betraying "the very foundation of the rule of law he purports" to support.
- Haltiwanger, John. "Trump's tear gas photo-op was 'frightening' to authoritarianism experts, who warn that his behavior will only get worse without 'fierce opposition'". Business Insider. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
- "2018 June Democratic Primary". Results.elections.virginia.gov. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abigail Spanberger.|
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 7th congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority