Former president Donald Trump endorsed Republican Yesli Vega in her race against Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) on Thursday evening — but, by Friday afternoon, Vega had barely said a peep about it, showing how the firebrand local lawmaker has tried to distance herself from the former president despite campaigning with some of his allies.
Trump’s endorsement of Vega marked his first overt foray into Virginia’s competitive congressional races this year, interjecting in a district where he lost to President Biden by six points. In his statement on Truth Social, Trump called on Virginians to back Vega, a former police officer who he described as “a WARRIOR for America First” and a “strong Republican Voice against Violent Crime and all other of the things that are destroying our Nation.”
Vega did not immediately respond to the Trump endorsement, but in a statement sent to The Washington Post via text message on Friday afternoon, her campaign placed the president’s support on the same playing field as voters in the district.
“President Trump joins the thousands of Virginians who have been supporting our campaign here in the 7th District, because they are discouraged with the failure of leadership they see from Joe Biden and Abigail Spanberger,” the statement said.
Vega had joined Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) at a rally in Stafford, Va., on Friday, where reporters also asked Vega about the Trump endorsement. She said she had just learned of the endorsement before the rally, AP reported.
“I’ve gotten a lot of endorsements. I’ve gotten the most important endorsements for me, which is the voters of the 7th District. So I’m really excited,” she said, according to AP.
Republicans in Virginia’s more competitive districts have assiduously avoided discussing Trump or even naming him, pulling a page out of the Youngkin playbook. That’s largely owing to the former president’s clear unpopularity in the state, which benefited several Democrats in tight races in the past two elections, including Spanberger. Trump lost Virginia by 10 percentage points in the 2020 election — which Vega has said she believes was “interfered with,” avoiding saying it was “stolen,” as Trump continues to falsely repeat. Vega previously told The Post that “the American people elected [Biden],” but would not say what she believed of Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, noting she did not know what went on in his head.
Vega was appointed by Trump to his Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity about a month before he left office (which she referenced in her Twitter bio at one point until August.)
Spanberger, for her part, spoke against the Trump endorsement on Thursday night: “Tonight, my opponent was endorsed by former President Trump. Virginians are exhausted by his division, lies, and hyper-partisanship,” she wrote on Twitter. Trump said Spanberger, who has led legislation to increase police funding, would “Defund our great police” and “destroy our Second Amendment.”
The race between Spanberger and Vega remains highly competitive, with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report returning it to “toss-up” status just this week. After redistricting, the 7th District is now anchored in eastern Prince William County, extending south down the I-95 corridor — much of which is new territory for Spanberger.