RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Rep. Liz Cheney crossed the political aisle again this election year and endorsed a Democratic colleague in a competitive House race, backing former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger on Saturday as she seeks a third term in a newly redrawn district in northern Virginia.
Cheney, vice chair of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot and an unsparing critic of former President Donald Trump who lost to a Trump-backed challenger in her Wyoming primary in August, said in a statement that Spanberger was focused on finding solutions and “dedicated to serving this country and her constituents and defending our Constitution.”
The GOP nominee in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, which is centered around the Interstate 95 corridor in exurban Washington and rural communities to the east and west, is Yesli Vega, a county official and former police officer recently endorsed by Trump.
In the statement provided by Spanberger’s campaign, Cheney said Vega “is promoting conspiracy theories, denying election outcomes she disagrees with, and defending the indefensible.” Cheney added: “We need our elected leaders to be honest, serious, and responsible, which is why I would urge voters in Virginia’s 7th District to support Abigail Spanberger.”
During her primary campaign, Vega said she believed there was evidence that “indicates that the election of 2020 was interfered with.” But she said she did not believe the election was stolen. Vega has also faced persistent criticism from Spanberger and other Democrats over remarks — not specifically mentioned in Cheney’s endorsement — in which Vega indulged the notion that pregnancy could be less likely in cases of rape.
Spanberger, a centrist, said that Cheney “understands that my work for Virginia is grounded in the principle of putting our country first — over party — always.”
Vega’s campaign responded by saying that Virginians do not trust the “lies” from Cheney or Spanberger and "know Yesli is going to Washington to fight for them, not a political party.”
In October, Cheney endorsed Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, the first time that Cheney had formally supported a Democrat. She also recently visited Michigan to campaign with Slotkin.
On Saturday, Cheney notably did not endorse Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, a fellow Jan. 6 committee member and another centrist Democrat in a tough race. Luria faces state Sen. Jen Kiggans in Virginia’s coastal 2nd Congressional District.
A spokesman for Luria, Jayce Genco, would say only that there are no current plans for Cheney to get involved in the race. A spokesman for Cheney, Jeremy Adler, declined comment beyond the written statement.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud, cheating or manipulation of voting machines in the 2020 election. Exhaustive reviews in the states disputed by Trump upheld Democrat Joe Biden’s win, and legal challenges pursued by the former president and his allies were rejected by numerous judges, including ones appointed by Republicans.
Cheney's endorsement of Spanberger was first reported by The Washington Post.
Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.
Sarah Rankin, The Associated Press