Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) declared victory Wednesday night over Republican challenger and state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, after further early voting counts gave her a 5,132-vote lead.
Spanberger took the lead after Spotsylvania County reported its final absentee ballots and Henrico County tallied additional absentee votes, which officials overlooked because the ballots had been saved on a mislabeled flash drive, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) Twitter.
“Tonight, the Seventh District affirmed its commitment to leadership in Congress that puts Central Virginia first, works for everyone, and focuses on expanding opportunity for the next generation of Virginians,” Spanberger said in a statement. “Serving the Seventh District in Congress has been my honor, and I look forward to continuing our work to strengthen and protect our communities.”
When Election Day votes were initially counted Tuesday night, Freitas had jumped out to a 50,000-vote lead over Spanberger, but there were still hundreds of thousands of early votes, which skew heavily toward Democrats, outstanding.
Spanberger continued to chip away at Freitas’ lead throughout Wednesday as more absentee ballots were being reported from Chesterfield, Henrico and Spotsylvania counties. At one point, Freitas was winning by only 1,300 votes.
By late Thursday morning, Spanberger had received 50.49 percent (227,538) of votes while Freitas had 49.35 percent (222,406), according to VPAP and the Virginia Department of Elections (VDOE).
Despite the first-term representative’s declaration, The Associated Press, and other media outlets, have not officially called the race because there are still more than 19,000 potential votes outstanding.
Freitas has not yet conceded the race either, deciding to wait until Friday, when official results will be reported, to make a final call.
In a Twitter post Wednesday night, the delegate thanked supporters and volunteers for their work during the campaign.
Freitas wrote: “Out of respect to them, the importance of this race, and the hundreds of thousands of votes that have yet to be canvassed in the district, our campaign will be waiting until the canvass concludes on Friday, at which time we will be making an appropriate statement. Thank you, as always, for your support.”
Important update on where we stand in Virginia's 7th District. pic.twitter.com/fokuzuD60z
— Nick Freitas (@NickForVA) November 5, 2020
Even with a substantial amount of potential outstanding ballots, it does not seem likely that they will alter results because the vast majority of absentee votes in the district – about 60 percent – came from supporters of Spanberger, according to VPAP.
Spanberger carried Chesterfield and Henrico, the 7th District’s most populous counties, by 15,000 and 25,000 more votes respectively, while Freitas had an advantage in the other eight smaller counties, according to the VDOE.
Before 2018, Republicans held the seat since 1971.
Freitas, who supports the president and some of his policies, won and lost counties by almost the same margins as Trump did in 2016 when he carried the district by seven percentage points.
But on Tuesday, Democratic challenger Joe Biden carried the district by less than one percentage point on his way to collecting the state’s 13 electoral college votes.
The current results and breakdown between counties are almost exactly the same as the 2018 congressional race when Spanberger upset then Republican Representative Dave Brat, handily securing the two Richmond suburbs and receiving 50.4 percent of the votes to Brat’s 48.4 percent.
The only major difference between the 2020 and 2018 races is the overall number of votes cast. In 2018, there were 349,590 total votes in the 7th District, but this year there have been 449,944 so far.
The increased voting in 2020 holds true for specific counties as well. Henrico saw an increase of 16,796 and Chesterfield had 36,977 more votes this year compared to 2018. The same can be said about other counties in the district.
A likely factor in that difference are the changes made to state election laws by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly earlier this year in an attempt to make it easier and safer for Virginians to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
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