Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA agent running for the nomination to challenge Republican Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, has picked up a key endorsement from Emily’s List, the advocacy group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights.
Spanberger is one of three candidates vying to face Brat, the two-term congressman from suburban Richmond who famously ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) in 2014.
Her biggest competition in the primary comes from Dan Ward, a former Marine colonel and commercial pilot, who raised the most money by the end of 2017, according to finance reports. Army veteran Helen Alli is running as well.
Democrats think they have a chance to flip the Republican district because in November, Chesterfield County backed a Democrat for governor for the first time in a half-century, and Democrats turned three House of Delegates seats in the 7th Congressional District blue.
The independent analysts at Cook Political say the race “leans Republican,” which is one notch behind toss up.
Spanberger, 38, grew up in Henrico, was stationed around the world as a CIA operations officer who recruited and developed spies, and returned to the 7th district about three years ago to work in the private sector.
“From working as a federal law enforcement officer focused on narcotics and money laundering cases to nearly a decade planning and executing covert operations in the CIA, Abigail repeatedly put herself in harm’s way to keep our families safe and protect our American values,” Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, said in a statement.
Spanberger grabbed headlines for challenging Brat after he complained last year that women constituents pressuring him to hold a town hall were “in my grill no matter where I go.” She was featured on a recent Time magazine cover with other first-time female candidates inspired to run in part by the election of President Trump.
Emily’s List called Brat out of touch with his district for voting to overhaul the Affordable Care Act and failing to meet more frequently with voters “because he was scared they may disagree with him.”
“Dave Brat has shown zero political courage and no ability to do right by working families,” Schriock said.
The endorsement means the political arm of Emily’s List will consider spending money on Spanberger’s behalf.