GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. — Voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District flocked to the polling stations Tuesday morning, creating at times long lines at the doors after they opened at 6 a.m. The closely watched race between Republican incumbent Rep. Dave Brat and his Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger made national headlines as polls showed that the formerly solid conservative district was considered a toss-up.
Interviews with voters at the polling stations on Tuesday morning showed a district deeply divided over President Donald Trump and his administration.
While many Republican voters came out to re-elect Brat, they also wanted to defend the president and his policies. Many praised the nation’s economy under the Trump Administration.
Democratic voters, on the other hand, were enthusiastic about Spanberger and the close race in a traditionally conservative district. They also wanted to show their anger and frustration with President Trump.
In 2014 and 2016, Brat beat his Democratic opponents handily. Brat won the seat in 2014 after staging an upset win in the Republican primary against then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who had held the seat since 2001. The 7th District last elected a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968.
The district stretches all the way across Central Virginia and includes all of Amelia, Culpeper, Goochland, Louisa, Nottoway, Orange and Powhatan as well as parts of Chesterfield, Henrico, and Spotsylvania. The district is a mix or rural and suburban communities. Close attention was being paid on how voters in the western suburbs of Richmond would cast their votes.
The VCU iPadJournos spoke with voters at polling stations in Henrico, Chesterfield, Goochland, and Powhatan counties to ask who they voted for, and why.
Polling station at Dover Baptist Church in Goochland
The polling station in Dover Baptist Church on Manakin Road in Goochland saw a heavy turnout of Republican voters in the morning, with an occasional Democratic voter coming out as well.
“I have decided to stay with Dave Brat. He has pretty much stayed with the principles that elected him in the first place,” Jay Spitzer, a retiree, said.
Alison Ervin, also a retiree, said she thought wages and jobs were up under Republican leadership.
“I voted for Dave Brat. Our 7th District is doing great, our country is doing great,” said Ervin.
Annalise Widdifeild, a student, voted for Brat because she believed in his policies.
“His reform is going to make a difference in ways that some of the Democrats and Independents couldn’t,” Widdifeild said.
Jim Dearras, a programmer, also voted for Brat.
“I just wanted to continue what is going on with Trump,” Dearras said.
Gail Jaspen, retiree, was one of the few Democratic voters at this polling station.
“I am really dedicated to returning this country to the values that made this country great,” Jaspen said.
Lee Bradley, a sales representative, voted for Brat because of his concern for the economy and because he did not like how the confirmation of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmation was handled.
“I like the direction that things are going with the economy,” Bradley said.
Carole Scott, a consultant, grew up in a military family and said she believed that the Republican Party represented her ideals.
“As I grew up I realized there were values that reside in the Republican Party that were true to me,” said Scott.
Frank Wilson, an insurance manager, voted Democratic because he is looking to see change.
“What’s going on right now in our country is not indicative of what I’ve grown up in, as far as America is concerned,” Wilson said.
Read dispatches from other 7th District polling places:
Brat or Spanberger: Who did western Henrico voters choose?
Brat or Spanberger: Who did Chesterfield voters choose?
Brat or Spanberger: Who did Powhatan voters choose?
Editor’s note: This story was reported by Deanna Davison, Kevin Sontag, Rachel Kidwell, and Taylor Mills. These student reporters are part of the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.