Sen. Bryce Reeves jumps into GOP fray for 7th District congressional seat

October 22, 2021

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, is done testing the waters — he’s jumping into an already crowded race for the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Abigail Spanberger D-7th.

Reeves, 54, a military veteran and former police officer in his third term in the Virginia Senate, is announcing Friday that he will seek the GOP nomination to represent a district that could look drastically different by next year’s general election because of redistricting.

“I think it is time to plant the flag,” he said in an interview.

Two women already have announced bids for the GOP nomination and begun fundraising — Tina Ramirez, a Chesterfield County businesswoman who sought the nomination unsuccessfully two years ago, and Taylor Keeney, a former gubernatorial press secretary who lives in Goochland County and founded a non-profit organization to provide essential supplies for children in needy families.

Two new arrivals to Virginia also have filed candidacies — John Castorani, an Orange County man, born in Henrico County, who finished fifth in an Alabama congressional primary last year, and Gary Barve, of Henrico, who ran for a city council seat in Santa Clara, Calif., last year.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Ramirez has raised $343,727 and had $249,541 on hand through Sept. 30; Keeney has raised $161,418 and had $102,304 on hand; Castorani has raised $263,812 and had $48,545 on hand; and Barve has raised $10,468, but had no cash on hand.

Spanberger raised $759,528 in the last filing period and had $2,435,997 on hand.

Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, who lost the nomination to Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, two years ago, hasn’t said whether he will run for the congressional seat next year, but he announced this week that he’s raised about $372,000 in the past three months, which he said “would be the largest amount raised by any GOP congressional candidate or incumbent in the state of Virginia.”

Reeves expects McGuire to run for the seat, but said his 10 years of Senate experience sets him apart from the rest of the field.

“I would be the only elected official running who has a proven record,” he said. “The rest are all wannabes.”

Keeney, who worked as press secretary for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said Friday, “I appreciate Bryce’s service to our country and his community, but it’s time for a change. If we keep pushing the same type of career politicians and re-tread candidates, we can expect the same result.”

Reeves sought the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in 2017, losing to Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier. Vogel lost to Democrat Justin Fairfax in the general election.

None of the congressional candidates, including Spanberger, knows whether the newly drawn 7th District will include their homes. A bipartisan commission is struggling to reach a consensus on a new map of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, after failing to reach agreement on legislative districts for the Senate and House of Delegates.

If the commission fails to produce a map for the General Assembly’s consideration the job of drawing the state’s new congressional boundaries will fall to the Virginia Supreme Court.

“We just don’t know what the district will look like,” said Reeves, whose 17th Senate District includes four of the 10 counties that are part of the 7th Congressional District.

Spanberger narrowly won two elections in the 7th District by carrying western Chesterfield County and western Henrico County by large enough margins to offset her losses in the district’s eight more rural counties, including Spotsylvania.

The district traditionally had elected Republicans until Spanberger, who lives in Henrico, defeated then-Rep. Dave Brat, R-Henrico, in 2018, and Freitas in 2020.

The redistricting commission, which has bogged down on partisan lines, looked at various proposals for the 7th. They ranged from one that would have turned the 7th into an outer Northern Virginia district that no longer includes the Richmond area, to one based in Chesterfield and Henrico that stretches west to Albemarle County and Charlottesville.

Reeves, who lives in northwestern Spotsylvania, said he is prepared to move within his Senate District, even though candidates are not legally required to live in the congressional districts they represent.

He calls Spanberger, a former CIA operations officer, “an empty suit” who votes almost always with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a favorite political target of conservative Republicans.

“I think government’s place today is to make people’s lives easier, better and safer,” he said. “So far, what we see is none of that is happening.”

Reeves prides himself as a policymaker who is able to partner with Democrats to solve important issues — reforming Virginia’s foster care system to better care for children and respect parental rights; protecting the rights of gun owners while expanding background checks on firearms to protect victims of domestic violence; and strengthening state oversight of charitable gaming operations to root out potentially corrupt practices.

“I feel like it takes leadership and the ability to bring people together to work on issues,” he said.

Reeves is a California native who received a bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M. He served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and as an Airborne Ranger. After leaving the military, he worked as a police officer and detective in Prince William County. He is now a State Farm insurance agent.

He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University and completed the political leaders and candidate training programs at The Sorensen Institute at the University of Virginia.

Reeves lives in Spotsylvania’s Lake Wilderness area with his wife, Anne, and their two children, Nicole and Jack.