Virginia GOP convention taps Nick Freitas to challenge Rep. Abigail Spanberger

Democrat Abigail Spanberger flipped seat in 2018, ousting Rep. Dave Brat

Virginia state Del. Nick Freitas, left, poses with a supporter at the 7th District Republican Convention in Doswell, Va., on Saturday. Freitas went on to win the nomination and will face freshman Democrat Abigail Spanberger in November.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Virginia state Del. Nick Freitas, left, poses with a supporter at the 7th District Republican Convention in Doswell, Va., on Saturday. Freitas went on to win the nomination and will face freshman Democrat Abigail Spanberger in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:00pm

Virginia state Del. Nick Freitas has won the Republican nomination to take on freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger in the 7th District, a battleground seat Democrats flipped in 2018.

Freitas bested five competitors, including fellow delegate and veteran John McGuire, on the third ballot at a party convention, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported. Rep. Denver Riggleman, who lost the GOP nomination for another term in the neighboring 5th District at a party convention last month, congratulated Freitas on Twitter, saying Congress needed “strong free market conservatives like him!”

In a field of political newcomers who struggled to raise money during the coronavirus pandemic, Freitas and McGuire benefited from their networks and name recognition as state lawmakers. 

Freitas has served in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016 and ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, narrowly losing the GOP nomination to Corey Stewart. 

He was the top fundraiser in the Republican race, pulling in $1 million, and had $350,000 left on June 28. 

Freitas led in endorsements, which can carry more weight in conventions when delegates are looking for signs of support from party leaders. He was endorsed by the anti-tax Club for Growth and its political arm, Club for Growth Action, spent more than $295,000 on mailings, digital ads, phone banking and get-out-the-vote efforts in the field. Freitas was also endorsed by the most recent Republican to hold the seat, Dave Brat, who knocked off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a tea party upset in 2014 before losing to Spanberger four years later.

A former Green Beret who served two tours in Iraq, Freitas has built a reputation as a staunch libertarian in the statehouse. He focused on Spanberger’s voting record during the last weeks of his campaign, saying that she could no longer pitch herself as a moderate because she had voted the same way as other House Democrats 96 percent of the time. 

In fact, a CQ Vote Watch analysis shows Spanberger had the eighth-lowest “party unity” score in the Democratic Caucus since the beginning of 2019. She voted against the majority of members of her party on 65 of the 571 votes tracked, giving her a two-year party unity score of 88.6 percent.

President Donald Trump won 7th District, which includes the Richmond suburbs, by 7 points in 2016. Spanberger beat Brat by 2 points in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to win the district in fifty years.

Freitas’ opponents criticized him for missing a June 9 filing deadline to get his name on the November ballot, an oversight that was especially embarrassing after he made the same mistake in his 2019 reelection race for the state House and ran as a write-in candidate. The Virginia Board of Elections issued a blanket extension earlier this month to every candidate who missed the deadline. 

Freitas is known for his fundraising prowess, but he enters the general election well behind Spanberger. She had $4 million in the bank at the end of June and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary last month. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilt Democratic.

Spanberger issued a statement early Saturday touting her ranking as one of the most bipartisan members of the House.

“No matter which candidate is nominated by Republican insiders today, my commitment to the issues that matter most to the people of Central Virginia won’t change,” she said.