VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A Navy veteran announced a bid Wednesday to seek the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s coastal 2nd Congressional District, aiming to take the seat back from a GOP congresswoman elected last year.
Missy Cotter Smasal said she will focus on the local economy, education, and military and veterans’ issues.
Cotter Smasal, who runs a nonprofit that honors fallen servicewomen, said in a statement that she is running because she believes U.S. Rep. Jen Kiggans hasn’t been standing up for coastal Virginia or focusing on military families and veterans. The district includes Virginia Beach and is home to an outsize military presence.
Cotter Smasal is the first Democrat to file in the race.
“Virginia’s veterans deserve a member of Congress who will honor our promises, not ones, like Kiggans, who vote to take away their benefits, threaten military readiness, and use servicemembers as political leverage,” Cotter Smasal said in a statement. “I feel called to serve, because extremist DC politicians, like Jen Kiggans, fail to support the people of this district.”
Kiggans’ campaign disputed Cotter Smasal’s comment.
“Jen Kiggans has kept her promise to restore American strength by supporting our military and Virginia’s families,” Danny Laub, a senior advisor for Kiggans for Congress, said in a statement, “Virginians deserve a representative who is focused on them and not someone who will rubber stamp Joe Biden’s liberal agenda.”
In November, Kiggans, then a state senator, defeated two-term Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in the Virginia Beach-centered district. The win came just two years after a Democratic presidential candidate carried the city for the first time since 1964.
Kiggans shied away from explicitly repeating Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, but she refused to publicly reject them.
Cotter Smasal served as a surface warfare officer in the Navy, deploying aboard the expeditionary fast transport ship USS Trenton during Operation Enduring Freedom, and later owned and operated an Italian ice business for over 10 years.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Smasal in one instance.