In her second faceoff with Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt County, Democrat Jennifer Lewis once again failed to flip Virginia’s 6th Congressional District blue. Cline, the incumbent, on Tuesday defeated Lewis by a comfortable margin, securing 65% of the vote by 11 p.m. At the same time, Lewis had won just short of 35% of the vote, with 296 of 323 precincts reporting.
The recently redrawn 6th District now includes the city of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties, encompassing the Northern Shenandoah Valley and running along the Interstate 81 corridor to Roanoke.
“I am grateful to the voters of Virginia’s 6th district who have asked me to continue fighting for the values of the Shenandoah and Roanoke valleys as their representative in Congress,” Cline said in a statement. “I want to thank the many volunteers who made calls, knocked doors, and worked polling locations for my campaign.”
Lewis, 41, a mental health worker from Waynesboro, first ran in Virginia’s strongly GOP-leaning 6th Congressional District in 2018, hoping to succeed Rep. Bob Goodlatte. But Cline, a 16-year veteran of the House of Delegates, defeated her by 59% to 40%. He will now be heading back to Washington, D.C. for a third term.
“Success in politics is often about geography, and the 6th District as redrawn for this election cycle gives the Republican nominee an immense home court advantage,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. “Cline needed to stay out of trouble to be reelected – mission accomplished.”
Lewis, who grew up on a small, family-owned dairy farm in upstate New York, was well aware that her rematch with Cline was an uphill battle in a deeply conservative district.
A community activist and volunteer for various local groups, Lewis had been known for years around Waynesboro and Augusta County. After her failed first bid for Congress, she ran for an open seat in Virginia’s 20th House of Delegates district, but was defeated by Republican John Avoli of Staunton by a margin of 18 percentage points.
And this year, Lewis faced a Republican opponent who is popular in his district, but who also had a significant monetary advantage going into this election. As of Oct. 19, the end of the most recent reporting period, Cline had raised more than $914,000, according to data gathered by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit tracking money in politics.
Lewis had raised just over $140,000 during the same period, forcing her to get more creative and put in a lot more footwork to get her message across.
“My average campaign donor is your average citizen donating $20,” Lewis told Cardinal News in an interview last month. “When you look at Congressman Cline’s donors, it’s the NRA, it’s Verizon, it’s Toyota, it’s these big corporations. And when you think about why Congressman Cline votes the way he does, look at his donors. His purpose is to protect his donors, and protect their interests, not the constituents he has been elected to represent.”
During her campaign, Lewis also narrowed in on Cline’s embracing positions of far-right Republican colleagues like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, whom she called “extreme MAGAs,” referring to members of the GOP caucus who continue to support former President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again policies.
Cline, however, on the stump hailed his efforts in constituent service. “I have more district offices than any other Virginia member, and our staff works on cutting through red tape, helping with passports, helping with veterans benefits, you name it. They are the experts on so many different things,” he told Cardinal News.
During his current term, Cline’s office has handled 98,000 responses to the phone calls, letters and emails, and 4,000 constituents received help with individual case work dealing with a federal agency. In total, Cline’s staff were able to get $2.7 million in tax returns and refunds processed.
However, in a Congress controlled by Democrats in the last two years, Cline sponsored just eight bills – including a proposal relating to veterans issues and small businesses. While none of these were signed into law, Cline takes pride in legislation he introduced dealing with healthcare in rural areas that was rolled into the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act of 2022, or PACT Act.
With a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Cline said he can’t wait to get back to work in Washington.
“I am eager to tackle the challenges facing our nation in a new Republican majority and address the many failings of the Biden administration. Americans voted for a change today because as they’ve felt the pain of high energy costs and the uncertainty of rising crime, Washington has provided few solutions.”
A Republican majority will put legislation on the President’s desk to “rein in Democrats’ inflation-fueling spending, shut off the supply of fentanyl that is poisoning this country by securing our open southern border, and provide much needed relief at the gas pump by restoring America’s energy independence,” Cline said.