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Fredericksburg-area voters trickle into polls on primary election day

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Regional voting precincts got off to a slow start Tuesday morning during a Republican primary election in which six candidates were vying to face U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat, in the new 7th Congressional district race this November.

Race results were too close to call early Tuesday night. As of The Free Lance–Star’s print deadline, Yesli Vega had 27 percent of the total, followed by Derrick Anderson with 24 percent.

“One (precinct) I talked with first, they had only been open an hour and they had six voters,” Kellie Acors said, Spotsylvania County’s registrar.

Acors noted that while turnout Tuesday morning was low, about 1,200 registered county voters had already cast their ballots early and in-person, and another 800 ballots were mailed to voters.

“We’ve gotten most of those (mailed ballots) back,” Acors said.

Later in the afternoon, Acors said things were still running smoothly, and the number of voters was “typical for a primary.”

“I hoped and prayed for 40%, but it’s not going to be that,” she said.

By 2:15 p.m., 162 people had cast votes at the Wilderness fire station.

“It’s been steady,” said Don Holmes, the election official at the station. “Would’ve thought there’d be more with so many candidates.”

Nancy Lambert, who serves on King George County’s electoral board, said by noon Tuesday, vote counts at the county’s five precincts ranged from 44 voters in the smallest precinct to 117 voters at the county’s busiest location.

“Relatively speaking, it’s low any time there’s a primary,” Lambert said. “So it’s slow, but it’s steady.”

The current 7th District seat, which Spanberger has held since 2018, lies mostly west of Richmond and Fredericksburg. The new district—redrawn following the 2020 U.S. Census—now includes a large portion of Prince William County, Fredericksburg, and all of Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, Caroline, Orange, Culpeper, Madison, and Greene counties, as well as a small northwestern slice of Albemarle County.

The ballot for Tuesday’s Republican primary included supervisors David Ross (Spotsylvania), Crystal Vanuch (Stafford) and Yesli Vega (Prince William), as well as educator Gina Ciarcia, state Sen. Bryce Reeves and attorney Derrick Anderson.

Anderson, also a former U.S. Army Green Beret, said he knocked on doors for months leading up to the primary. He said the biggest issue he heard about from potential voters is the area’s high cost of living.

“We need change, that’s the No. 1 thing,” Anderson said. “The person that goes up there in November needs to beat Spanberger and needs to bring the Republicans together.”

By 11 a.m., Stafford County Registrar Anna Hash said turnout had been slow at all county polling stations throughout the morning.

“I’m a little surprised it’s as slow as it is,” Hash said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Steve Freyler emerged from the Dixon–Smith Elementary School precinct in Stafford after casting his vote for Anderson. By 8:30 a.m., about 40 other voters had cast their ballots before him.

“I want to try to make a difference, it’s that simple,” Freyler said. “The fact (Anderson’s) a veteran and has a couple of tours, being a veteran myself, I understand what that does to you.”

Freyler, who has lived in Stafford for the past 17 years, said he’s never missed voting in a primary or a general election during that time. He said Tuesday’s election was especially important due to the state of the country.

“You’ve got the inflation, the price of gas, the border is a big issue,” Freyler said. “If you don’t get out and vote, you’re not going to change things.”

Ron Stevens of Falmouth said he usually doesn’t vote in a primary election, but he said this one was important to pick the strongest Republican candidate from the field to defeat Spanberger in November. He also picked Anderson at the Dixon–Smith polling station.

“He’s a true patriot, he’s from this area and I think he can beat Spanberger,” Stevens said. “He’s demonstrated his loyalty to this country, his loyalty to the ideals of the Constitution. I believe he’s the strongest one we can put against her.”

Although Grace O’Hara of Stafford wouldn’t say who she came to the polls to vote for, she did say she voted because it’s her civic duty.

“It’s my responsibility to be out here to vote,” O’Hara said. “The choices we make impact what’s going on.”

Voters arriving Tuesday morning at the Spotsylvania County’s Public Safety Building were in and out of the precinct within just a few minutes.

“I was the only (voter) in the room,” said Beth Skourtis. “I make it a point to vote in any election.”

Skourtis said her grandmother didn’t always have the right to vote, which has inspired her to show up at the polls.

“It’s not something we should take lightly,” Skourtis said.

Elsewhere in Virginia, state senator and Navy veteran Jen Kiggans won the Republican nomination Tuesday in the state’s coastal 2nd Congressional District.

Kiggans, a nurse practitioner, will go on to face incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in what’s expected to be a competitive general election contest that could help determine which party controls the U.S. House.

“This is our chance to retake control of our country. It’s time to restore American strength in our economy, at our borders, and on the world stage. Now let’s get to work!!!” tweeted Kiggans, who was expected to give remarks at a watch party later in the evening.

Kiggans defeated three opponents, including far-right Jarome Bell, who called himself the “MAGA candidate.”

Scott Shenk, Andi Russell and wire reports contributed to this story.

James Scott Baron:

540/374-5438

jbaron@freelancestar.com

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I spent 23 years in the Navy in media relations and as a reporter. Prior to coming to The Free Lance-Star in 2019, I volunteered with a local non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated people transition back into society. I'm also an avid motorcyclist.

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