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Jen Kiggans defeats incumbent Elaine Luria in closely watched House race

The election in Virginia's 2nd District was an uphill battle for Luria because of Biden's low approval ratings and the district's new lines being more Republican.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Republican State Sen. Jen Kiggans won the U.S. House election in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, defeating the two-term Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria in a hotly contested race.

As of 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Kiggans was leading Luria 52% to 48%. The Associated Press called the race shortly after 11 p.m. Election Day.

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Kiggans' victory was widely seen as pivotal for Republicans seeking to retake control of the House, which has been held by Democrats since 2019. 

"I was really pleased to see Jen Kiggans win," Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said on Wednesday. "I think that the road to the majority continues to run through Virginia. I think the 2nd is going to be a critically important seat in order to add to that path to the majority. And that will end up with a divided government in Washington. That means it’s incumbent on everybody to go to work to get things done."

The election in the 2nd District was one of three hotly contested House races in Virginia, the others being the 7th District and 10th District. Democratic incumbents Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton triumphed over their Republican challengers.

Kiggans gave a victory speech in Virginia Beach late Tuesday night, thanking her supporters, family and campaign team for getting her across the finish line.

"We are here to celebrate tonight, but not just the victory of a political party, but we're celebrating the new day for our Commonwealth and for our country," Kiggans told her supporters. 

"We're here to celebrate a renewed commitment to restore American strength in our economy and our borders, in our community and on the world stage."

The Congresswoman-elect made an overture to those who voted for Luria, saying she looks forward to serving the 2nd District in Congress and hopes to earn their respect and support over the next few months.

She also thanked Luria for fighting a hard-fought race, despite their differences in political ideologies.

 "We certainly share a love for our Navy and a love for our country," Kiggans said. "I do wish my opponent well in her future career and future endeavors, and I thank her for all of her years in public service."

Kiggans struck a tone of unity in her speech, saying she believes it's what's best for the country.

"I ran because I believe America is good and I believe freedom is good," Kiggans said. 

"I ran because I want people finding jobs and I want businesses creating opportunities and I want families to be able to raise their kids in safe and secure neighborhoods. And I ran because I believe it's important to focus on the things that unite us and not what divides us."

Luria conceded the race shortly before 11 p.m., congratulating Kiggans on her victory and vowing to ensure a smooth transition. 

"It has been an honor to serve you in the 2nd Congressional District over the course of the last four years," Luria told her supporters in a concession speech.

During her speech, Luria told her supporters not to boo Kiggans' victory.

"The success of this district depends on her success, and this was a hard-fought race," Luria said. "She won this election [and] we came out short of where we wanted to land, but the truth is that we do need to wish her the best of luck."

Luria hinted at a future in politics, citing speculation that former President Donald Trump will announce another presidential campaign.

"The dangers that exist to our democracy, the things I've been working on as a member of the Select Committee for the Jan. 6 investigation, making sure that we preserve our democracy and our votes continue to count, that work continues," Luria said.

She added: "I'll just tell you, I'm just getting started."

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Luria was first elected to Congress in 2018. This election was widely seen as an uphill battle for her because of President Joe Biden's low approval ratings and the redistricting process making Virginia's 2nd District more Republican than before.

The district is comprised of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk and Franklin, along with Southampton, Isle of Wight, Northampton and Accomack Counties. In the process, the district lost the heavily Democratic Norfolk.

During this election, Luria largely campaigned on abortion, military and veterans issues, and her service on the House committee investigating Jan. 6. 

Kiggans, on the other hand, nationalized the race as a referendum on the economic policies of Biden and a Democrat-controlled Congress amid high inflation and elevated gas prices.

Luria tried to paint Kiggans as an extremist on the abortion issue, following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, while Kiggans tried to cast Luria as being in lockstep with Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Kiggans refused to say if Biden was legitimately elected in the 2020 presidential election, oftentimes acknowledging that he holds office right now. The Washington Post notably categorized her as an "election denier."

Up until recently, political forecasters such as the Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball considered Virginia's 2nd District to be a tossup race. On Monday, the latter moved its ranking in slight favor of Kiggans.

On top of that, an October poll from Christopher Newport University found that both candidates were tied at 45%.

As of Wednesday morning, Congress hangs in uncertainty as midterm election results pour in across the country. Many political forecasters expect Republicans to win control the House, but the Senate remains a tossup.

Youngkin noted, Kiggans' win is a move that could play a significant role in the makeup of Congress.   

“In order for Republicans to take control in the House we needed to flip seats and that’s exactly what we felt would happen in the 2nd," Youngkin said. "And Jen Kiggans ran a super campaign and voters turned out and really expressed a view to make a change there.” 

The new Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2023.

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