Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) answers questions during a town hall in Virginia Beach on Oct. 3. (Parker Michels-Boyce/for The Washington Post)
After a national Republican group began targeting Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) over her support for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, she is pushing back in an unusual way.
Luria, who represents the swing district of Virginia Beach, created a fundraising committee to raise $228,000 not for her own 2020 reelection campaign, but to help elect Democrats to competitive seats in Virginia General Assembly races next month.
The dollar amount matches what she said the Republican National Committee spent on ads that say Luria “broke her promise.”
Luria’s reelection bid is far from assured. She helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House last year when she unseated Republican Scott Taylor, but Virginia’s 2nd District voted for Trump in 2016 and is expected to be among the most competitive in the nation next year.
Her pledge to refuse corporate tax dollars makes her own fundraising efforts all the more challenging.
“Most people are focused on their own races and their own victory, but I think it takes all levels of government to get a win for our constituents,” Luria said in an interview Monday. “I want to make a difference where I can as quickly as possible, and I’ll have time to focus on [my race] as well.”
Luria, a former Navy commander, was one of seven Democrats with national security backgrounds who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, announcing their support for an impeachment inquiry, the day before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided to start the impeachment process.
“Luria votes with the radicals for endless investigations of President Trump, wasting tax dollars,” an RNC ad says. “Tell Elaine Luria, put petty politics aside and start getting things done.”
Luria said she is supporting candidates for the General Assembly because a Democratic state legislature is the best hope for enacting gun-control measures since gun bills on the federal level do not appear to be progressing through the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate.
Virginia Beach was the site of a mass shooting in May, and gun control has emerged as a major issue in the state races, where Democrats are hoping to win control of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Republicans are defending thin majorities of 51 to 48 in the House of Delegates and 20 to 19 in the Senate, with one vacancy in each chamber.
She would also like to see the state legislature ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
Since starting to make calls on behalf of Defense Dem PAC last week, Luria said she’s about halfway toward her goal, which is more than any member of Congress from Virginia has devoted to local races in recent years, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.
Like Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger, her counterparts in Northern Virginia and central Virginia who also won red districts in 2018, Luria has been lending her star power to events and fundraisers for legislative candidates in her region.
John Findlay, executive director of the Virginia GOP, said, “Luria’s latest move is a clear indication that she is more interested in auditioning for a post-congressional career commentating on MSNBC instead of getting reelected.”
Asked if she’s doling out favors and raising money to bolster a potential future statewide campaign, Luria said, “I am focused on the 2nd District. There’s no other future plans or ambitions related to this.”
Luria said she wants to start writing checks next week to competitive races in southeastern Virginia races that could give Democrats control of both legislative chambers.
Democrats could pick up Senate seats in Virginia Beach, where Del. Cheryl Turpin (D) is running against Republican Jen Kiggans for an open seat vacated by Sen. Frank Wagner (R), and where Democrat Missy Cotter Smasal is challenging Sen. Bill DeSteph (R).
In the House, Del. Kelly Fowler (D) is running against Republican Shannon Kane in Virginia Beach; Democrat Shelly Simonds is in a rematch with Del. David Yancey (R) in Newport News; and Democrat Phil Hernandez is trying to unseat Del. Rob Bloxom (R) on the Eastern Shore.
The election is Nov. 5.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referenced a digital ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund.