RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria and her GOP challenger, Virginia state Sen. Jen Kiggans, are set to face off Wednesday in the first debate of their closely watched race to represent the coastal 2nd Congressional District.
The swing-district race between the two Navy veterans is among the most competitive in this year’s midterms and will help determine whether Democrats maintain control of the U.S. House.
Luria and Kiggans will debate a range of issues important to the region, including infrastructure and military affairs, according to the Hampton Roads Chamber, which organized the event.
The debate runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and TV station WTKR will livestream it, according to the chamber. Chris Saxman, a former Republican member of the House of Delegates, will moderate.
The 2nd district covers much of Virginia’s coast, including the Eastern Shore and the state’s most populous city — Virginia Beach. Although it no longer includes Norfolk, home to the world’s largest naval station, it is home to many military veterans. Luria flipped the district blue under its previous lines; under its new boundaries, GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin would have won it by more than 11 points last year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the race a toss-up.
Millions of dollars have been raised and spent already on the race, including over $11.6 million on political ads, according to disclosures compiled by Kantar Media and published by VPAP.
Luria, a retired naval commander who served as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer, has cultivated a congressional identity as a centrist since flipping the district blue under its previous lines in 2018. She serves as vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and is a member of the Jan. 6 committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol.
Kiggans, who has represented parts of Virginia Beach and Norfolk in the state Senate since 2020, handily defeated three opponents in the June primary. A former Navy helicopter pilot and a geriatric nurse practitioner, Kiggans has struggled to overcome Luria’s sizeable fundraising lead. Luria did not face a primary challenger.
The two candidates have agreed to a candidate forum Oct. 17 in Smithfield and a televised debate Oct. 25, according to Luria’s communications director, Jayce Genco.
All of Virginia’s 11 U.S. House seats, which were redrawn last year during the once-a-decade redistricting process, are being contested in November. Along with the 2nd District, the 7th and 10th Districts in northern Virginia are considered the most competitive.
Early voting began in late September and runs through Nov. 5. Election Day is Nov. 8.