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Derrick Anderson seeks to challenge Spanberger in new 7th as GOP field takes shape

By Michael Martz, January 6th, 2022, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Derrick Anderson, a former Green Beret with six tours of duty in overseas conflicts for the U.S. Army, is making clear he’s still in the race to represent the newly configured 7th Congressional District, which includes his native Spotsylvania County.

Anderson, 37, released a video and statement on Thursday to reaffirm his candidacy for the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, in the new district the Virginia Supreme Court approved late last month after a long, messy effort to take some of the politics out of political redistricting. (Spanberger could be one of several candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the new district.) 

Anderson previously had filed his candidacy to run against Spanberger in the old 7th District, anchored in the Richmond suburbs and extending over 10 counties, including Spotsylvania. The new district, anchored in eastern Prince William and the Fredericksburg area, covers all or part of 10 counties and the city of Fredericksburg, but no longer includes parts of the Richmond area.

“This district is my home,” Anderson said in a statement on Thursday. “My entire family still lives in Spotsylvania County, the place I was raised, the place that shaped me into the person I am today.”

He said he is “running to guarantee an end to the extreme agenda of Democrats in Washington,” and declared, “Abigail Spanberger can no longer represent the people who raised me.”

The dramatic geographical realignment of the 7th District has shaken up a GOP field that once included 10 challengers. State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, formally dropped out of the race after her home was included in the 1st District, represented by Republican Rep. Rob Wittman. Taylor Keeney, a former aide to Gov. Bob McDonnell, dropped out after her home county, Goochland, was moved to the 5th District, represented by Republican Rep. Bob Good.

Two other prominent potential candidates, Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, and Chesterfield businesswoman Tina Ramirez have not dropped out of the 7th District race, but they’re still considering their options after the new map shifted to move McGuire into the 5th and Ramirez into the 1st.

At least five candidates say they remain in contention for the Republican nomination to challenge Spanberger, who will run for re-election in the new district: Anderson; Prince William Supervisor Yesli Vega; John Castorani of Orange County; state Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania; and Gary Adkins of Stafford County.

Vega, a former Manassas Park police officer and Prince William sheriff’s deputy, lives just outside the new district, but she confirmed last week that she’s running in the 7th.

“From Prince William to Culpeper, Virginians are being pummeled by the current policies and decisions coming out of DC,” she said on Twitter on Dec. 28.

Vega was elected in 2019 to represent the Coles District in central Prince William, a portion of which is within the new 7th District. She lives just outside the boundaries, but congressional representatives are not required by law to live in the districts they represent.

Axiom Strategies, the political consulting firm that guided Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign last year, is representing Vega.

Four of the candidates, including Anderson, have backgrounds of military service.

Castorani, 30, who grew up in Louisa County and later attended Fork Union Military Academy, moved from Alabama, where he briefly ran for Congress, to Orange with his young family last year.

“I’m from here,” he said in an interview last year.

He is a U.S. Army veteran, serving as an intelligence analyst in support of special forces units in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other parts of Africa, and a member of the National Guard in Alabama. He previously worked in a civilian intelligence role for a national security agency, but currently is a stay-at-home dad running for Congress.

Castorani and Reeves were both prepared to switch their campaign to the 10th District, represented by Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, under a proposed redistricting map that the Supreme Court considered. The court amended the final congressional map to restore Orange and Spotsylvania to the 7th District.

Reeves’ Senate district includes three counties in the new 7th — Spotsylvania, Orange and Culpeper, which also were part of the old congressional district that Spanberger was elected twice to represent.

Reeves is a former U.S. Army infantry captain, both Ranger and Airborne qualified. He announced Thursday that he has been endorsed by SEAL Pac, a political action committee that works to elect conservative military veterans to Congress. The committee’s chairman is Ryan Zinke, a former U.S. Navy SEAL team commander who served as secretary of the interior under President Donald Trump.

A former Prince William narcotics detective who now owns an insurance business, Reeves already has collected a string of endorsements by law enforcement officials and prominent Republican leaders, including former House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, and Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, who challenged Spanberger unsuccessfully in 2020.

Adkins served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and describes himself as “a liberty-minded conservative.” He grew up in Southwest Virginia and moved to Stafford in 1990. He said last week that he still has “close family ties” in Southwest Virginia, and also lived in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, which “gives me a balanced perspective on issues important to the new 7th District as well as different regions of the commonwealth.”

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