Spanberger wins re-election, urges Democrats to clarify message after heated caucus call

Posted at 7:11 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 19:13:04-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Rep. Abigail Spanberger told CBS 6 that comments she made during a private phone call with Democratic colleagues were mischaracterized.

Last week, the Washington Post obtained audio from a Democratic Caucus conference call that Spanberger said she thought was off the record.

“This is about me recognizing that we lost members who shouldn’t have lost,” the Democrat said during the four minute recording.

On Sunday, the Associated Press projected Spanberger as the winner of the 7th District race securing about 8,000 more votes than her Republican challenger Del. Nick Freitas. Freitas is a former U.S. Army Green Beret.

“It’s about what I expected,” Spanberger told CBS 6 in a Monday Zoom interview. “I assumed it would be a tight race. I believed we would win and I’m grateful for the voters of the 7th district for putting their trust in me again.”

The former CIA operations officer said the Washington Post’s headline claiming she lashed out and blamed other Democrats for the losses was mischaracterized.

The moderate Democrat said on the call that the party “need to not ever use the term ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again.” She said the term “defunding the police” nearly cost her the race.

“I don’t support taking money away from police departments,” Spanberger told CBS 6. “I do support ensuring that social services across our communities are strong. I do support a greater accountability among law enforcement, as do law enforcement.”

In a series of tweets, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded tweeted that “candidates who are blaming progressives for their problems …almost all had awful execution on digital during a pandemic.”

Ocasio-Cortez also said, “finger pointing is not gonna help.”

“The purpose of what I was discussing on that caucus call was a call to my colleagues to be clear in our language,” Spanberger stated. “Certainly, the point of my comments were we need to talk about policies. I wasn’t blaming any particular policies.”

Democrats across the country lost about five seats in the House of Representatives, but will still maintain a majority, according to the Associated Press.

“Some of my colleagues were celebrating successes that I don’t think we should have been celebrating,” Spanberger explained. “It’s very, very clear there are places for us to recognize that people don’t always understand what Democrats are for. There have been terms and slogans utilized that confuse people.”

In 2018, Spanberger was the first Democrat to win the predominately right-leaning Central Virginia district since 1968.

Spanberger ran on a record of lowering prescription drugs prices, expanding broadband internet access, and her work pushing for an additional COVID-19 relief bill - in addition to other issues. She highlighted her work with a coalition of groups and Republican lawmakers helped her win.

She noted her support of the bi-partisan George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that passed the House.

Spanberger said her focus now is to get the economy back on track and fight the coronavirus aggressively.

“If we do the policy right and we communicate it well, then I think the electoral success follows,” she explained.

CBS 6 reached out to Del. Freitas’ campaign for a comment on the AP projection. They have not responded as of Monday evening.

Virginia's 7th congressional district supported President Donald Trump in 2016. It extends from the suburbs west of Richmond to the exurbs of Washington to rural towns at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and includes voters in Chesterfield, Henrico, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Louisa, Orange, Powhatan, Goochland, Amelia, and Nottoway.

Spanberger was part of a wave of women who helped Democrats retake the U.S. House in 2018. She came to Congress with deep intelligence experience.