Editorial: What we will be watching in 2023 — Elections – Fredericksburg.com

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Rep. Abigail Spanberger won a third term in Congress in 2022, and unsettled local Republicans worried about the gains she made in Stafford and Spotsylvania. Will her success translate for local candidates in 2023?
In recent days, we’ve been running down three topics the editorial board will be paying close attention to in 2023. On Thursday and Friday we discussed education and Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Today we focus on …
There was one 2022 election of note in our region, but it drew national attention. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat, won a third term in the newly redrawn 7th Congressional District. She held off Republican candidate Yesli Vega, who seemed to make one mistake after another on the campaign trail. Whether it was blatantly wrong statements about rape and pregnancy, authoritarian statements about abortion, or repeatedly refusing to debate, Vega was using a Tea Party playbook in a district that has for four years now been making a steady shift from red to blue.
Her strategy wasn’t completely without reason. Republican Eric Cantor held this seat from 2000–2014, rising to Republican majority leader. A solid conservative, his loss to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat in 2014 foreshadowed the rise of Donald Trump two years later. Spanberger taking that seat from Brat in 2018 was as earthshattering a win as was Brat’s over Cantor. Her victory in November suggests it will be in Democrat hands for some time to come.
Unless the landscape shifts radically, again.
In 2023, we’ll be watching for those shifts in our area’s many off-year elections. Here are just some of the races we’ll be watching.
Fredericksburg is a solid Democrat city, and that’s not likely to change. But the dynamics of the city’s leadership will change.
Mary Katherine Greenlaw, first elected mayor in 2012, will step aside. Hers are big shoes to fill. The intrigue here will be less about who wins, than how the winner navigates the problems that are coming down the line.
With population expected to continue growing, new building projects coming online, an ALICE population that remains stubbornly high, and housing costs that continue their steep climb, Fredericksburg’s next mayor has an opportunity to transform the city for the better, or mismanage it into a series of problems that will plague Fredericksburg for years.
In Stafford County, three of the seven seats on the board of supervisors are up for election. In 2021, Republicans lost their decade-long grip on the board when Democrat Pamela Yeung and independent Monica Gary flipped two GOP seats. Will Republicans rebound?
Spanberger made huge gains in Stafford County in November, losing the county by less than 600 votes. The growing progressive base in Stafford has many in the Republican Party concerned about their future. That’s why we’ll be watching how the races shape up for the seats held by independent Tom Coen, Democrat Tinesha Allen, and Republican Crystal Vanuch.
Possibly complicating party control will be Gary, who is weighing a run for state Senate in the 27th district. If she runs, the person who replaces her could tip the scales again. But which way?
Speaking of the 27th, we’ve previously written about this race’s importance not just at the state level — Democrats need this win if they hope to hold the Senate the final two years of Youngkin’s governorship — but nationally. The district is a hot mess of warring conservative factions who will test the governor’s ability to control the party. This could be one of the more compelling races in the country in 2023.
Finally, there’s the sinking ship that’s the Spotsylvania County School Board. In just a year, Board Chair Kirk Twigg has taken a well-run, mid-size school system and turned it into a battleground where extreme Tea Party politicians and likeminded parents have been turned loose to burn it to the ground.
Twigg can’t afford to lose even one seat. If he does, his grip on the School Board is broken. Four of the seven seats are up — two held by Dawn Shelley and Lorita Daniels, who are currently in the minority; two held by Rabih Abusmail and Twigg, who sit with the majority.
Twigg has angered not only parents, teachers, and non-Tea Party citizens, he’s also unpopular with more-mainline Republicans. There’s a good chance he loses, but who replaces him?
We will be watching to see who emerges, and the intense campaigning that’s sure to come.
Make no mistake — this election is critical. Two more years of the current mess could inflict irreparable harm on the school system and community.
As the saying goes, all politics are local. That will certainly be true in 2023.
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Rep. Abigail Spanberger won a third term in Congress in 2022, and unsettled local Republicans worried about the gains she made in Stafford and Spotsylvania. Will her success translate for local candidates in 2023?
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