RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Democrat and political newcomer who unseated a two-term Republican congressman in a Virginia GOP stronghold spent nearly a decade as a CIA operations officer working on counterterrorism and nuclear proliferation cases.
Abigail Spanberger, 39, also worked as a federal postal inspector, handling narcotics and money-laundering cases.
About two years after leaving the CIA, Spanberger decided to run for Congress in Virginia’s 7th District, a mix of suburbs west and south of Richmond and large rural areas.
The married mother of three young daughters said she became increasingly disturbed by the sharp political divide in the country, President Donald Trump’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries and the GOP’s unsuccessful attempt to repeal Obamacare.
Her bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Brat was seen as a longshot early in her campaign. The district has been held by Republicans since 1971.
Brat, a former economics professor, scored a stunning primary victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014 and easily beat his Democratic opponent to win a second term in 2016.
During the campaign, Spanberger cast herself as a moderate and portrayed Brat as inaccessible and out of touch with his constituents. She also successfully tapped into anger over President Donald Trump among suburban voters to energize Democrats.