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Opinion Virginia’s U.S. House elections are set

A man casts his ballot in Virginia's Republican primary election June 21 at the voting center at Walker-Grant Middle School in Fredericksburg. (Tristan Lorei/The Free Lance-Star via Associated Press)
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Virginia voters went to the polls in some parts of the state on Tuesday to select congressional nominees for the November general election. A few narratives immediately emerged, setting up what should be real donnybrooks in the redrawn 2nd and 7th districts.

In the 2nd, Republicans tapped state Sen. Jen A. Kiggans (Virginia Beach) to challenge incumbent Rep. Elaine Luria (D). The 2nd has been one of Virginia’s true swing districts over the years. Now, it looks to favor Republicans, and Kiggans is serving up what the GOP craves: opposition to “radical transgender policies” and critical race theory and support for “election integrity.”

One potential flash point in this race: Luria serves on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the Capitol. Luria has not shied from this service and has made it a part of her reelection effort. Kiggans is in “see no evil, speak no evil” mode, not discussing either ex-president Donald Trump or the Jan. 6 horror show.

In the heavily redrawn 7th District, GOP voters picked the Trumpiest of all the candidates running: Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega (Coles).

Vega will face Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger, who has been busy introducing herself to the voters of the reconfigured 7th while banking the campaign cash.

On paper, the 7th looks like a toss-up. But in Vega, the GOP chose a culture warrior who has no problem campaigning alongside performance artist Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Virginia’s own Rep. Bob Good.

And don’t get Vega started on the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. In response to a question from the Star-Exponent about the events of that day, Vega said she wasn’t “going to play into [the media] narrative.”

As with the race in the 2nd District, the 7th will tell us a great deal about who truly believes in the rule of law, constitutional principles and so on, and who is in this politics game for the lulz.

Speaking of the rule of law, I caught up with Loudoun County NAACP president Michelle Thomas recently about her decision to join the new lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2021 House of Delegates elections.

Thomas said part of her reason for seeking to join the lawsuit was the question of “capacity.”

“No matter how good or how tuned-in you are to the district,” Thomas said, “there simply aren’t enough hands to go around. Needs will not be met.”

Thomas’s current House district, the 29th, has 50.8 percent more people than the least populous district, the 75th, making it “facially unconstitutional.”

Another big driver for Thomas: the sense that Virginia’s politicians have chosen personal convenience rather than seeking justice in this case.

“Justice is never a matter of convenience,” Thomas said.

Thomas said she “wants to remain hopeful” that the case will be quickly resolved. “But after watching the charade and the circus of the past year, I’m doubtful that anyone in office is interested in fighting for justice. They prefer to do what’s convenient.”

Maybe Thomas and others can take some heart from legal developments in Louisiana, where a federal judge is forcing the state legislature to redraw its congressional districts before the November elections. The local pols are fighting the judge every step of the way — even asking the U.S. Supreme Court for help.

Sounds a bit familiar. So does the charge Louisiana pols make that foisting new districts on unsuspecting voters and ill-prepared candidates this late in the political calendar would result in chaos come November.

Don’t buy the hype, especially when it comes to special elections in Virginia. Thomas’s complaint to the court contains a helpful reminder that the special election to replace Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones took less than a month from Jones’s resignation announcement on Dec. 16 to Election Day on Jan. 11.

And no one was inconvenienced.