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After winning her tough reelection in Virginia, Rep. Abigail Spanberger looks to the future

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Going to turn now to Representative Abigail Spanberger. The Virginia Democrat and former CIA officer won reelection in a race that was considered a toss-up. She defeated Yesli Vega, an anti-abortion rights candidate with a law enforcement background and the support of former President Trump. Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us.

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER: Thank you very much for having me.

SIMON: This was a tough and closely watched campaign for everybody, I suppose. What were the issues, as you heard it from your constituents, that seemed most important?

SPANBERGER: So it really varied person to person. One of the things I would characterize, though, is that across the board there was just a level of uneasiness or a level of concern that existed. So for some people the uneasiness was because of the gas prices or the cost of prescription drugs or the cost of, you know, food at the grocery store. For some people it was the concerns about a loss of freedoms with the Dobbs decision and, you know, concern about what might come next.

SIMON: Let me ask you about something President Biden said this week. He was asked at a press conference about voter frustration, as expressed in exit polls and other information and what he intended to do differently over the next two years. Let's listen to his answer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Nothing, because they're just finding out what we're doing. The more they know about what we're doing, the more support there is.

SIMON: Do you agree with that approach?

SPANBERGER: Well, I think there's always area for improvement in ensuring that people know what it is that we're working on, what it is that we've delivered. We can always do better at connecting those dots, taking a moment to say, let me connect the dots between these sets of concerns that this community, this state, you know, these individuals have with the work that we've actually been doing.

SIMON: Such a bitter campaign in so many districts, including - I don't have to tell you - your own. Can you work with the people in the other party on the Republican side after such a campaign?

SPANBERGER: You know, I can. I have had three really tough campaigns. And at the end of the day, the work that I do is about serving the people that I represent, you know, whether they voted for me or not. Hyperpartisanship and division and anger is bad for the country. And I have always, since I got to Congress, been focused on trying to bridge some of these divides.

SIMON: Does that put you at least somewhat at odds with people who are progressives in your party?

SPANBERGER: Well, I think that the idea's that, you know, the bigger the coalition, the better. And so if I believe in these policies, I should take the time to try and - not always successfully, but try and pitch these ideas to people across the political spectrum and at least, you know, have the conversation. This is what I'm advocating for.

SIMON: But to point out the obvious, you have been outspoken in saying that you were concerned that some progressive Democrats were advocating policies that you didn't think were going to help the party, particularly when it comes to defunding local police and questions like that.

SPANBERGER: Yeah. Well, I think important piece there is that, you know, with the exception of a couple of people, no one was actually advocating for taking funding away from police. And so my point is, if someone is going to use this, you know, hashtag on Twitter or hold up a poster at an event and then say on Capitol Hill, well, what I really mean by that is - then what are you doing? You're mixing up a message, confusing people. You know, the word defund has an actual literal definition, and people are believing you when you say that. And if you don't mean it, don't say it.

SIMON: Do you hope President Biden runs for reelection?

SPANBERGER: You know, I think that we need to continue to make the case of the things that we are doing on behalf of the American people. And I think that we need to continue to advocate for strong voices in support of and defense of our democracy, our institutions. So we need to continue as legislators just kind of focusing on what matters to people. And so, you know, whether it's the current president or, you know, any future Democratic leaders, you know, that's what I'm focused on.

SIMON: It's irresistible to point out you answered our question without once mentioning President Biden by name.

SPANBERGER: That was supposed - evidently not intentional, but, yeah. I - you know, and I - you know, I'm focused on the people that I represent, and I brought President Biden to our district. And I had the opportunity to put constituents who were struggling with the price of their prescription drugs in front of the president of the United States. And, you know, that was last year. And then fast forward - we passed the Inflation Reduction Act, and many of those same constituents now will see their lives changed. And so I'm proud of the work that I've done with President Biden. I'm proud of the fact that former President Trump signed bills into law of mine. And that's, I think, really what the role of an elected representative should be, is focusing on solving problems, not necessarily the sort of palace intrigue of who's doing what when, but really just getting things done for the American people.

SIMON: Representative Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, thanks so much for being with us.

SPANBERGER: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.