Home USA News Luria is pro-democracy, fighting for black voters

Luria is pro-democracy, fighting for black voters

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SUFFOLK, Va. (AP) — In the final days of her campaign, Rep. Elaine Luria stood on a wooden porch in a remote part of her newly formed district with a microphone in hand and a 7-year-old black girl in her arms. on her part to make her final case for what’s at stake in the midterm elections.

The Virginia Democrat, quoting the late congressman Elijah Cummings, pointed to the girl and said, “Our children are a window into a future we will never see.” Luria argued that that future will look much bleaker if her Republican challenger wins one of the most contested House races in the country.

In his first two congressional races, Luria, a former Navy commander, would likely be seen in a military-themed setting. But this time she’s in Suffolk, a new part of her district with a 40% black population, whose votes could well determine whether she gets a third term.

“If Luria is going to have a chance to win, she absolutely needs to win over black voters,” said Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, director of research at Christopher Newport University’s Wasson Center. “Even in our poll, we see that black voters are more likely to say they’re undecided than white voters, and that suggests there’s some vulnerability and need for Luria to reach out.”

Over the past year, Luria has become more prominent because of her seat on the House Committee investigating the deadly January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol. But there is little evidence that this has helped her politically, and may even have eroded her support.

Yet she also sees the race as a referendum on democracy itself. It’s a national call for parties that will be tested in a district that has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of families with military ties.

“This is much more than just Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. It’s certainly about a lot more than re-electing Elaine Luria,” she told a mostly black crowd of voters on Sunday. “It is really about the future of our country and the direction in which we are moving. It’s about our democracy.”

A recent Wason Center poll found Luria and her opponent, state Sen. Jen Keegans, tied at 45% among likely voters, with 8% undecided. Kiggans declined to be interviewed for this story.

“Suffolk is really the key to winning this race and keeping this seat,” Luria said in her closing remarks. “And this seat is the key to keeping the majority in the House of Representatives.”

The 2nd Congressional District ranks 217th in the nonpartisan Cook Political Report’s partisan voting index, making it a midpoint between the most Republican House seats and the most Democratic seats in the country—essentially the most swing district in the country.

The district, which first elected Luria in 2018, was recently redrawn to become more Republican. Donald Trump, a Republican, wore it in his successful 2016 presidential campaign, but in 2020, Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 to run in Virginia Beach, part of the district.

Luria’s moderate demeanor and reputation would seem a good fit for the district, but Kiggans has emphasized economic issues and tried to tie Luria to Biden, both of whom are appealing to a wide swath of voters for the first time.

“The year after redistricting is always interesting and challenging because in some cases you have to re-introduce yourself to a new voter, a new constituency,” said Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Virginia Democratic Party.

And that’s what Luria has been doing for the past year with the 40% of first-time voters in this sprawling district, including voters in Suffolk who face challenges different from those elsewhere. The 2nd District, in southeastern Virginia, continues to include Virginia Beach and curves from the eastern shore to Suffolk, the Isle of Wight and other communities.

Luria’s campaign has adjusted its pitch to focus on abortion access, military and veterans issues and what it calls an ongoing threat to American democracy. She called her service on the Jan. 6 committee “the most important thing” she’s ever done professionally, having served in the Navy for more than two decades, including as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer in command of 400 personnel. crew in the Persian Gulf.

“People have said to me, ‘Elaine, you’re the only Democrat in a Republican district on this committee, what’s that going to mean?’ When you get home, it might not be popular,” Luria told volunteers at the Oct. 29 event. “And I said it doesn’t matter. That’s right.”

“And if that means I won’t be re-elected,” she added, “that’s fine.” Because I’m on the right side of history.”

Luria cited her oath of office as the main reason she chose to serve on the committee, a message that resonated with some in a district where the overwhelming majority of the population includes military, veterans and residents who work at local shipyards.

But according to a Wason Center poll, voters said economic issues are driving their election choices, with nearly 40% citing it as the most important issue, followed by abortion at 17% and threats to democracy at 14%.

Luria’s opponent, Kiggans, also a Navy veteran, said the election would not be decided by the Jan. 6 committee.

“I’ve never had a voter, a person (whom) I’ve knocked on, a civic league I’ve attended, an event I’ve attended, I’ve never had a single person come up to me and say this is the main issue , which they’re focused on,” Keegans told The Associated Press in July. “Every day I hear over and over and over again about gas prices and grocery prices and grocery shortages and how much it all costs.”

But for a number of black voters in the district, the economic issue is not at the top of the ballot.

“We understand that the economy ebbs and flows. But when we start dealing with the disenfranchisement of women, it brings us back to the issue of our civil rights,” said Ebony Wright, a Navy veteran and black resident of Suffolk. “And so when we start cutting, it’s scary. And then it makes us wonder what’s next.” She said she would vote for Luria.

Her neighbor Selena Thornton, who is also a black veteran, said the reality and history of the Suffolk area, miles from the site of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion and near the Sunset Strip, constantly reminds her that she is not as far removed from her ancestors as some may believe. And she said that that is why Luria is also her choice.

“If you want to know the black vote, it’s here: There’s always going to be a fear that we’re going to move backward, not forward,” Wright said.

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Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play during the midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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