Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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    HomePoliticsDemocrat Aaron Rouse projected to win Va. Senate seat to replace Kiggans

    Democrat Aaron Rouse projected to win Va. Senate seat to replace Kiggans

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    Democrat Aaron Rouse, a former National Football League player who runs a youth-focused nonprofit organization and served four years on the Virginia Beach City Council, held a narrow lead over Republican Kevin Adams, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who runs a home-improvement business, in Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacant state Senate seat in Virginia Beach.

    With all precincts reporting, Rouse declared victory in the competitive race for the swing-district seat vacated by Republican Jen A. Kiggans after she was elected to Congress in November. Late Tuesday night, the race was separated by hundreds of votes, with about 168 provisional ballots and an unknown number of absentee ballots still remaining to count.

    “With your support, and the support of voters from across Virginia Beach and Norfolk, we have won this Special Election,” Rouse tweeted. “No rest for the weary – tomorrow, we head to Richmond to get to work for Virginia families.”

    The winner will serve the final year of the four-year term that Kiggans began in January 2020.

    The race was one of three special elections held Tuesday, a day before the General Assembly begins its annual session. It was the only one involving the Senate, which has a narrow Democratic majority. The race became a surprisingly well-funded and nationally watched one for its potential impact on abortion access in the state.

    With Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) pushing to ban abortion in Virginia after 15 weeks, Rouse, a former football safety for the Green Bay Packers, made defending abortion access a key campaign issue. He focused two of his three TV ads on the topic.

    Although Adams did not make it a focus during his campaign, he had said he favors Youngkin’s proposal, which includes exceptions for rape, incest and to preserve the mother’s life.

    Virginia allows abortion through the second trimester, about 26 weeks, and in the third only if the mother’s life or health is at serious risk, as certified by three doctors.

    The outcome of the race won’t change control of the Senate. If Rouse’s victory holds, it would flip the seat and give Democrats an upper hand by widening their majority to 22-18, a source of comfort given that Sen. Joseph D. Morrissey (D-Richmond) is open to some abortion restrictions and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears (R) has the power to break most ties.

    The board of elections will count mail ballots received by Friday, when final totals for absentee ballots should be available.

    Adams’s campaign largely centered on his military experience, emphasizing tax cuts for military veterans, which aligns with action the General Assembly took last year to exempt a portion of military pensions from state income tax. His website lists supporting veterans, improving education and creating jobs as other priorities.

    Throughout the campaign, Adams also framed Rouse as soft on crime, a message he hoped would resonate in Virginia Beach — an area with a high concentration of military voters that is still reeling from a mass killing at a Virginia Beach municipal building in 2019 as well as a mass killing at a Walmart in nearby Chesapeake in November.

    Rouse disputed the soft-on-crime claims, pointing to his efforts to secure pay increases for Virginia Beach police when he was a council member and his work with police and other first responders on community-policing initiatives and through his nonprofit group, Rouse’s House, which helps support local families with school supplies, winter coats, holiday meals and toys.

    Aside from abortion rights, Rouse’s campaign included promises to focus on education, the economy and public safety with proposals to give pay raises to teachers and police; expand preschool and affordable housing; and improve job-training programs.

    Rouse was born in Norfolk and raised in Virginia Beach. After the death of his grandmother, a house cleaner who had helped out financially, Rouse began helping support the family at age 10 by mowing lawns. His football talent helped him land a full scholarship to Virginia Tech.

    In 2007, after college, Rouse was drafted by the Packers in the third round of the NFL draft. He played three years in the league before returning to Virginia Beach and establishing Rouse’s House.

    “It’s truly a grass-roots, community-driven effort,” Rouse said in an interview Tuesday night. “And I couldn’t be more proud for the city to have my back.”

    Also on Tuesday, Democrat Holly Seibold was projected to beat Republican Monique Baroudi in the race to replace Del. Mark L. Keam (D-Fairfax), who resigned to join the Biden administration. Republican Ellen Hamilton Campbell was projected to defeat Democrat Jade Harris, who has served as vice mayor of the town of Glasgow in Virginia’s Rockbridge County in the race for the seat previouslyoccupied by Del. Ronnie R. Campbell (R-Rockbridge), who died in December.

    The General Assembly convenes for its annual session on Wednesday morning in Richmond.

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