DOSWELL — Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, will take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, in November.
In an in-person convention Saturday in Caroline County, Freitas, who has served in the House of Delegates since 2016, received 56% of the vote on the third ballot, outlasting five challengers in his bid to secure the GOP nomination for the 7th District, a one-time Republican stronghold that turned blue in 2018.
The win for Freitas, who sought the U.S. Senate nomination in 2018, sets up what is likely to be a closely watched contest with Spanberger in a swing district that includes eight rural counties and large swaths of suburban Chesterfield and Henrico.
Freitas, a U.S. Army veteran who gained national recognition in 2018 for a pro-guns speech on the House floor, came out the victor as he looks to represent a district that includes all of Orange, Culpeper, Goochland, Louisa, Nottoway, Amelia and Powhatan counties, along with large parts of Spotsylvania, Chesterfield and Henrico counties.
Spanberger said in a statement before the convention’s conclusion that no matter who one, “my commitment to the issues that matter most to the people of Central Virginia won’t change,” specifically highlighting broadband internet access, prescription drug costs for senior citizens and COVID-19 safety, among other things.
“I’ll continue working with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done, and I look forward to victory in November,” said Spanberger, a former CIA officer who beat Rep. Dave Brat in 2018. “Our district needs someone who puts country before party, not the other way around.”
Freitas, who Brat endorsed this year, will be allowed on the November ballot after the state elections board voted earlier this month to extend a deadline that Freitas and several others missed to file a form that, if not filed, wouldn’t have him listed on the general election ballot. The DCCC is suing the Board of Elections over its exception, arguing that Freitas, who also missed the deadline last year, forcing him to launch a write-in campaign to win his House of Delegates seat back, shouldn’t be allowed on the ballot.
Running against Freitas were Chesterfield County teacher Pete Greenwald, Army veteran Andrew Knaggs, Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, Chesterfield nonprofit leader Tina Ramirez and lawyer Jason Roberge.
The convention, held in the Farm Bureau Exhibition Hall at Meadow Event Park where the State Fair of Virginia is normally held, was initially scheduled for April, but delayed because of COVID-19, making it the last nominating contest this year with all but Democratic Senator Tim Kaine’s seat up for grabs in Virginia’s Congressional delegation. Roughly 2,500 delegates attended the convention, which went three rounds. More than 5,000 delegates registered for the event.
A candidate had to receive a majority of support from delegates in order to win. The bottom two finishers in each round were eliminated.
Freitas nearly secured the nomination in the first round of voting, earning 43.5%. McGuire garnered 25.9% of the vote, while Ramirez received 23% and Knaggs got 7%. Greenwald and Roberge each received less than 1% of the vote.
In the second round, Freitas failed to receive the majority needed to secure the nomination. He picked up 3 percentage points, for a total of 46.7% on the second ballot. McGuire received 25.1% compared with Ramirez’s 24.5% and Knaggs’ 3.7%. For the third round, Ramirez endorsed McGuire while Knaggs backed Freitas, who raised more than $1 million in the contest, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
McGuire raised the second most at $670,199, according to VPAP. McGuire did not immediately return a request for comment on the outcome.
While other local party committees opted for a drive-through convention, most notably one last month that saw former Liberty University employee oust Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-5th, or a traditional primary, 7th District Republicans convened in person Saturday.
Party officials recommended that people social distance and wear face masks, which less than half of people did.
“Your safety, our safety, everyone’s safety is of predominant importance,” said 7th District GOP Chairman Ben Slone during the 7:30 a.m. opening ceremony.
Some voters wore masks inside the convention hall while voting and removed them when they got outside, where people waited to hear results.
“It’s their freedom,” said Rick Smith, a Goochland County resident who supported Freitas, regarding the choice to wear a mask.
Delegates interviewed said Spanberger is not adequately representing them and said they are politically motivated this year by gun control efforts, abortion and recent protests over race, among other things.
“It’s time to get control of our country again,” said Louisa County resident William Woody.
Outside the convention hall, people posed for pictures with Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, the only declared Republican running for governor next year, and Daniel Gade, the Republican challenging Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., this fall.
Campaigns positioned tents near the hall, offering relief from the 90-plus degree heat with industrial-size fans, while the Ramirez campaign shuttled supporters to-and-from a nearby hotel to stay cool.