HENRICO, VIRGINIA — Fresh off a campaign event at Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue in Henrico, Virginia, Abigail Spanberger was nearing the finish line of her first political campaign — and a most improbable down-to-the wire battle against a vulnerable incumbent, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA).
Spanberger spoke to ThinkProgress about what it’s like having an opponent in Brat who admitted that he and his fellow Republicans “lie all the time.”
She also shared her thoughts about for former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s visit to her district to try to help Republicans to “hold the line” in the 7th district, which he called an “absolute bellwether.”
According to an audio clip of Brat shared by Blue Virginia over the weekend, he admits that he, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and other Republicans, “lie all the time” when they say they have repealed Obamacare.
“The problem is we’ve lied,” Brat said in the clip. “Both of our leaders … Paul Ryan’s a nice guy, but he said he was going to repeal Obamacare. That’s a lie. It was not a repeal at all. And so, we lie ALL THE TIME.”
Spanberger said this was one of the few honest statements Brat had made during the campaign.
“It’s unacceptable. We as voters and we as Americans and we as Virginians shouldn’t accept the notion that our politicians should just lie. I’m running for many reasons,” she said.
“Rejecting a politics where that is considered to be normal and acceptable is chief among the reasons. I would also argue that that’s probably one of the first truthful statements he has made in the course of this race.”
Political advertisements have been running heavily in the 7th district and beyond, so much so that local activists have noticed that some residents living across the district border in Rep. Donald McEachin’s safe Democratic district have put Spanberger yard signs up, possibly thinking that Brat is their congressman.
Spanberger brushes off the thrust of the attack ads, which she calls “laughable.”
“A lot of the attack you see are rooted in a kernel of truth and then they explode them out — the attack ads against me are just so ridiculous,” she said.
From allegations that she supports open borders, to other accusations she trained terrorists during her service at the CIA, Spanberger says, “they’re so laughably disconnected from who I am that they don’t impact me personally.”
But they both make her disappointed in the political process and provide her a bit of motivation to work harder to win.
“How I do view them is with great disappointment,” she said. “We have a member of Congress who is so desperate to keep his seat that he’s just making stuff up, and not even with much originality.”
“The first time I saw one of them, all it did was just motivate me to win just a little more, and then the next one was just a bit more motivation because the fact that that’s how our political system works is just exactly what’s wrong with our political system.”
Former Sen. John Warner (R-VA) announced he was endorsing Spanberger over fellow Republican Brat after a conversation they had about why she was running, her priorities, and bipartisanship. “There were a lot of takeaways from our conversation but a lot of it really was focused on making sure I was focused on service.”
Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon was in Culpepper, Virginia, urging Republicans to “hold the line” in the 7th District. “I’m very nervous right now,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I will guarantee you, if we lose this district we’re going to lose the House of Representatives,” he warned.
“This is a referendum on President Trump,” Bannon said. “This is an absolute bellwether of the entire country.”
Spanberger found herself surprised to agree with Bannon’s characterization.
“Probably the one thing Steve Bannon’s right about!” she told ThinkProgress. “It is a bellwether. This is a district that’s historically been a Republican-voting district but there are a lot of people who have always viewed themselves Republicans who have voted for principled people like John Warner.”
Spanberger sees those Republicans disillusioned with the current GOP as fertile ground for a path to victory on Tuesday.
“There’s just been such a significant departure and when we have someone like Dave Brat, who’s so driven by ideology, there’s no responsible leadership,” she said. “So I think ours is a bellwether district because we have two diametrically opposed candidates.”
She said that while Brat was focused on ideology and obstructionism, she was out in public venues, taking questions, speaking about issues and solving problems.
“I’m talking about bipartisanship as a way to get things done, talking about representing everyone whether or not they vote for me, and that’s exactly the opposite,” Spanberger said.
“So it’s a bellwether, because it’s a question of what voters want, no matter who they’ve historically voted for.”