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Jen Kiggans and Jarome Bell

Nearly eight months after Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia and reversed years of Democratic gains, Virginia voters go to the polls today. Republican voters’ pick in one key district could decide whether their party regains control of Congress this year, activists and experts tell Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.

Pickup opportunity: Rep. Elaine Luria, a Norfolk Democrat who flipped a longtime Republican seat in 2018, is seen as among the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. Republicans only need to flip five Democratic seats to retake the majority in 2023. “I think the 2nd District is the clearest Republican pickup,” said Ian Cummings, who serves on the executive committee of the Norfolk Republican Party.

Different visions: The two leading Republicans vying to take on Luria represent two different visions of the future of GOP politics. Jen Kiggans, a nurse and former Navy helicopter pilot who was elected to the state Senate in 2019, and Jarome Bell, a former Naval petty officer, both espouse conservative views. Kiggans and Bell have both argued that the results of the 2020 election should be audited to root out what they each claim was voter fraud.

Pushed right: Bell has adopted a harder line in his approach to the matter. In September, he tweeted that people convicted of voter fraud should face execution. “Jarome Bell has pushed the whole primary way to the right, and pushed Kiggans way to the right, as well,” said Bob Holsworth, managing director at DecideSmart, a Virginia-based political consulting firm. “She’s worried about the Trump base. Kiggans has supported the call for a forensic audit of the Virginia election in 2020, which no one believed was fraudulent. So she moved in that direction.”

Tricky strategy: The Virginia Democratic Party has sent out mailers attempting to boost Bell, part of a national trend to boost primary candidates that are further right in an effort to win over independents and center-right Republicans in the general. But the strategy may backfire, especially in the event of a major Republican wave.

Elsewhere in Virginia: Virginia Republicans will also pick a candidate to take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who like Luria has fashioned herself a political moderate. The leading candidates in the 7th District, which moved north from the Richmond suburbs to a more exurban rural base during redistricting, are a state Senator and Army veteran, a former Green Beret, and a Prince William board supervisor.

Other races we’re watching: In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser hopes to fend off several primary challengers looking to unseat the two-term Democratic mayor. And in Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Katie Britt head to a runoff in the state’s GOP Senate primary. Brooks had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in 2021, but Trump pulled the endorsement in March and threw his weight behind Britt, an attorney and businesswoman, earlier this month.

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