NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from a related story that aired on Aug. 25, 2022.
The people of Hampton Roads are about to see more campaign ads on their screens as the U.S. House race in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District heats up.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, Republican State Sen. Jen Kiggans and two national groups backing them released four new ad spots since Labor Day. Some of these highlighted their personal lives, while others focused more on hot-button issues.
The spots come eight weeks before Election Day on Nov. 8, where Luria is seeking a third term in the House of Representatives under redrawn district lines more favorable to Republicans.
13News Now spoke with J. Miles Coleman with the UVA Center for Politics and Sabato's Crystal Ball, who analyzed the new ads and what they suggest for each candidate's messaging strategy.
Luria connects Congress to military service, leans into the abortion issue
“Robert” is about Luria's husband helping out at home while she works in Congress, connecting it with the sacrifice of military families.
"Like a lot of military families, Elaine and I have spent a lot of time apart," her husband Robert Blondin narrated. "And Elaine's serving in Congress also means a lot of time apart."
Coleman said this type of ad is important since messaging can get nasty during political campaigns.
"It kind of humanizes things, because politicians are people, too," Coleman said.
He added that the message of the ad was connected to "a sense of duty," which could resonate with military families.
“Dr. Archer” features OB/GYN Dr. David Archer as the campaign points out Kiggans' views on abortion.
"I've been an obstetrician/gynecologist since before Roe v. Wade," Dr. Archer said in the ad. "Back then, it was frightening what women would risk in order to have an abortion. And we're right back there now."
Coleman described this ad as an effective nudge at Kiggans, saying it could be geared towards senior citizens that "punch above their weight" when it comes to voter turnout, compared to younger people.
"I think the most important thing about the ad with the doctor is, 'I've been practicing medicine since before Roe v. Wade,' basically point being Kiggans wants to take us back there," Coleman explained.
He said this type of message could resonate with senior women who remember what abortion access was like before the 1973 Roe ruling.
Kiggans introduces herself to VA-02 voters, pushes back on 'extremist' claim
Kiggans' “A Lot of Things" ad, the second of the election cycle, focused on kitchen-table issues and her career, pushing back on critics that describe her as an "extremist."
She touted her experience as a Navy helicopter pilot, nurse practitioner, state senator, wife and mom.
"My opponent is already lying about me, because like a typical politician she’s only worried about one thing, getting re-elected," Kiggans said in the ad. "I’m worried about the same things you are, keeping my kids safe and the family budget."
Coleman described "A Lot of Things" as an introductory ad that came too late in the game, but was good for showing her biography and establishing herself as someone who is familiar with the military.
He also pointed out the "politician" comment against Luria, considering Kiggans has been a state senator since 2020.
Outside groups' ads strike a different tone
In addition to what campaigns themselves released, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a Republican super PAC affiliated with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the Democrat-affiliated House Majority PAC jumped into the ad wars.
The CLF's ad, "Reckless," tried to connect Luria to President Joe Biden and his handling of economic issues.
"She not only praised the Biden economy, she helped create it," the narrator said. "Luria voted with [House Speaker] Pelosi for trillions in wasteful spending, sparking the inflation that made everything more expensive."
Coleman said the goal of the ad was to increase negative perceptions of Luria in the eyes of voters. He described it as a "cookie cutter" that could basically run in any congressional district against any Democrat.
"I'm not just attacking the Republicans for that, because the Democrats do it as well," Coleman said.
The House Majority PAC's ad, "Prosecute," tries to paint Kiggans as being far-right on the abortion issue.
"Kiggans voted for restrictions on our rights, then supported the Supreme Court decision which allowed states to outlaw abortion, criminalizing it, allowing doctors and nurses like me to be prosecuted, even in cases of rape and incest," a Williamsburg nurse said in the ad.
Coleman explained this ad could be geared towards younger women and paints Kiggans as out of touch on the abortion issue.
Once again, he pointed out the negative use of "politicians," similar to Kiggans' "A Lot of Things" ad, considering Luria is a politician herself.
In elections, consistent messaging is important, Coleman says
When it comes to political campaigns, Coleman said having a simple message and repeating it is powerful, citing Alaska Democrat Mary Peltola's recent win of a U.S. House seat using a "fish and freedom" theme.
"If you throw too much at voters, stuff tends to get lost," Coleman said. "I think you need to have a clear, consistent message and repeat it."
When it comes to Virginia's 2nd District, Coleman summed up Luria's brand as an independent voice who represents the needs of her district, and Kiggans as a veteran that understands the area and would "stand up for the district against Biden."
When it comes to all of the ads analyzed, Coleman observed that the ones from the campaigns themselves were generally more positive and biographical, while the outsider groups' ads were harsher.
"That's often a dynamic we see, where you have the individual candidates, kind of, trying to take the high road, and it's the national groups that come in and do the dirty work," Coleman said.
A spokesperson for CLF confirmed it spent over $3.5 million on ad reservations targeting Luria this fall, which are booked ahead of time but could change as Election Day approaches.
13News Now reached out to the House Majority PAC to see how much it plans to spend in Virginia's 2nd District.