Del. Nick Freitas, a Republican from Culpeper who was re-elected Nov. 5 in a write-in campaign, says he is running for the congressional seat held by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.

“We believe the district is more conservative than how it is being represented,” Freitas said in an interview. “We believe I have the best opportunity to change our representation in the district.”

In a four-minute video announcing his 2020 run, titled “Service,” Freitas pitches himself as a veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces with tours in Iraq, a father of three who married his high school sweetheart, and the son of a young college student who opted not to terminate her unexpected pregnancy.

Freitas ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018, narrowly falling to Corey Stewart in the Republican primary for the right to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Freitas joins a Republican field that includes Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, a former Navy SEAL; and Chesterfield County resident Tina Ramirez, the president of a nonprofit that promotes religious freedom in other countries. Republicans in the 7th District will pick their nominee in a convention next year.

Freitas is seen as a staunch member of the GOP’s libertarian arm and as a robust fundraiser from like-minded conservatives. He attracted the single-largest contribution in any contest for the House of Delegates — $500,000 from top GOP donor Richard Uihlein of Illinois, founder of a packing supply company.

After sizable losses for Republicans in Virginia — for statewide offices, legislative seats and in congressional districts, including Spanberger’s — Freitas said he plans to run on a liberty-forward platform to minimize the influence of the federal government on citizens’ lives.

“We do a much better job when we allow free people to make decisions, maximizing individual opportunity. When we keep the focus on that, protect property rights, civil liberties, and let citizens make their own decisions for their lives,” Freitas said.

“That’s a message that resonates with people.”

Freitas was initially critical of President Donald Trump’s rise to power, but has since become a supporter of the president and his policies.

In recent weeks, Freitas took part in an anti-impeachment rally in Henrico County, during which he attacked Spanberger for her position on the issue.

Spanberger had been among a few congressional Democrats in swing districts who for months held off on supporting the president’s impeachment. In September, she publicly backed a congressional investigation into the president. The investigation is ongoing.

Asked about his own changing views, Freitas said in an interview that “it’s important to judge a president by what they have done in office.”

“When I look at regulatory policy, taxes and foreign policy, I think he has accomplished a great deal. The economy is doing well for the vast majority of Americans,” Freitas said.

“There has been a nonsensical hatred of the president within the Democratic Party, and they’ve designed their whole agenda to overturn the results of the 2016 election.”

Anti-Trump animus among Democrats propelled Spanberger in 2018 — the year that saw Virginia’s second of three “blue wave” elections during Trump’s presidency. That year, Democrats flipped three GOP-held congressional seats, and Spanberger defeated Republican Dave Brat, a Trump supporter.

Brat, a member of the GOP’s tea party arm, had won the seat four years earlier after shocking then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary. Cantor’s defeat may have signaled the rise of the Trump-era GOP.

Spanberger won the seat in 2018 by 6,784 votes, or about two percentage points. She prevailed by carrying Henrico by 20,000 votes and Chesterfield by more than 10,000 while trailing in the each of the district’s eight rural counties.

Freitas was first elected in 2015 to the 30th District House seat that represents part of Culpeper County and all of Madison and Orange counties.

Earlier this year, Freitas failed to qualify for the ballot to run for his House seat due to missing paperwork, but after a robust and well-funded write-in campaign, he won re-election by about 14 percentage points, receiving 56% of the vote.

Freitas said the momentum from that effort, which included a “robust ground game” and ample voter education, will help as he seeks a different office.

“All of those skill sets will serve us very well in the 7th District race,” he said.

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mleonor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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