Democratic Congressmember Elaine Luria—She Serves on the January 6, 2021 Commission June 12, 2022
The time many of us have waited for has finally arrived. On June 9, 2022, the hearings into the January 6, 2021 insurrection on our democracy by Trump fanatics opened in our nation’s capital. The hearings were chaired by Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY). These hearings were meant to get to the bottom of just what happened on that awful day, a key oversight function of Congress. Committee members Thompson and Cheney emphasized that Demagogue Donald violated his constitutional oath to protect our nation. Congressmembers Thompson, and especially GOPer Cheney, gave powerful statements, aided by video clips that showed never-before scenes of this horrible riot. Thompson, Cheney, and the first witnesses demonstrated that despite GOP FOX News “talking points,” this riot was not some peaceful demonstration, tourist “visit,” or “discussion” of political issues. The attack on our nation’s capital was shown to have been far from spontaneous. It had been planned by Demagogue Donald from the time he had lost the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden in 11/2020 (CNN television broadcast, 6/09/22). Some of the most damning statements concerning Trump’s guilt came from his super-loyalist Attorney General William Barr. Barr was quoted as saying that one of the reasons he resigned his office in 12/2020 was because Donald refused to believe Barr’s repeated comments that massive voter fraud was “BS (CNN television 6/09/22 broadcast).” In a powerful video clip, Trump’s “favorite” child, daughter Ivanka, stated that Barr’s comments convinced her that there was no major voter fraud. The 6/09/2022 hearing also had testimony demonstrating the heavy involvement of the anti-government Oath Keepers and white supremacist Proud Boys in this riot. According to Proud Boys’ leaders, Trump’s “stand back and stand by” 12/19/2020 tweet tripled membership in their extremist group (CNN television, 6/09/22). Testimony additionally showed that prior to 1/06/2020, the Proud Boys, “cased” the area around the Capitol to determine where the mob coming to hear Trump could most easily break in. In a 12/19/2020 tweet, Demagogue Donald called on all his supporters to come to the Capitol on 1/06/2021, the date the Electoral College votes would be certified by Congress. Donald stated that day would be “wild.” After breaching the Capitol, the Oath Keepers marched in several columns. One of those columns tried to seize Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Several GOP members of Congress sought pardons from Donald for their participation in this attempted coup (CNN television, 6/09/22). According to Cong. Cheney, Trump had a seven-point plan to overturn the 2020 election (cnn.com, 6/10/22). And even worse, Cheney noted, that when Trump became aware of the rioters’ chants to “hang (VP) Mike Pence,” Donald replied, “Well maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence, ‘deserves it (Wire & Kaur, latimes.com, 6/10/22).’” In authoritarian Trump’s “mind,” Pence, who rightly refused to throw out legitimately cast electoral votes for winner Biden, deserved to be killed. IMHO, Trump could care less about the U.S. Constitution.
Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards described how fellow police were thrown to the floor by the rioters as blood ran all over. The granddaughter of a Korean War Marine veteran, Officer Edwards suffered traumatic brain injuries while trying to rescue fellow officers (latimes.com, Wire & Kaur). The area was poorly guarded by the Capitol Police who were easily overwhelmed by the Trump-inspired rioters. CNN commentators called the opening presentation with its film “devastating, gruesome, and emotional.” Families of some of the police officers were seen wiping tears from their eyes (CNN television). Reps. Thompson and Cheney, as Chair and Vice-Chair of this hearing, have been repeatedly profiled. Let’s look at one of the other committee members, Elaine Luria.
Second-term Congressmember Elaine Luria (46) currently represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District (CD). The Old Dominion 2nd includes the entire city of Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach is that state’s largest city with a population of 450,000(Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). It has a metropolitan area of 1.7 million people that is centered on the local Navy community, which includes active duty and civilian personnel, dependents, retirees, and workers at the Newport News Shipyard. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 19 million tourists visited this area. Like Norfolk, VA, Virginia Beach is permeated by military culture. It is the base of East Coast Navy Seal teams, including the one that killed 9/11 terrorist master-mind Osama bin Laden in 2011. A monument to the Seals was dedicated in 2017 (Cohen & Cook 2022). Besides the military, Virginia Beach is the headquarters of evangelist/politician Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, the producer of the 700 Club. Right-wing Pat Robertson is the son of the late segregationist Dixiecrat U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson (See Cohen & Cook 2022). The VA 2nd includes several small cities on thin stretches of peninsular land. The 2nd has the two VA counties of the Delmarva Peninsula. Dominion Resources operates in Accomack County. Dominion is considered to be one of the largest solar power plants on the East Coast (Cohen & Cook 2022). The VA 2nd contains many sites prominent in American history. Yorktown, where the British surrendered to the American colonists in the Revolutionary War, is here. Close to Yorktown is Williamsburg, where tourists come to see a city restored to look like it did in colonial times. The College of William & Mary, the second oldest college in the U.S., is located in Williamsburg. Jamestown, settled in 1607, is in the 2nd. The 2nd includes Fort Monroe where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned after the Civil War (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Politically, more than 60% of the 2nd’s population is located in Virginia Beach. In recent decades, Virginia Beach has narrowly leaned GOP. Donald won the 2nd in 2016 by 3 points. In 2020, Joe Biden took Virginia Beach by 6 points and the entire 2nd by 4 points. The latest Cook PVI, Partisan Voting Index, gives the Old Dominion 2nd a mere R+1 score, making it a very swingy area, constantly up for grabs (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Birmingham, Alabama native Elaine Luria graduated in 1997 from Annapolis’ U.S. Naval Academy where she majored in physics and history. In 2004, she received her Master’s degree in engineering management from Old Dominion University. Luria was trained as officer in the surface warfare division and in Tomahawk land-attack missile launch. She served 20 years (1997-2017) in the Navy. Much of that time was spent in the Middle East and in the western Pacific. She supported operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an engineer, she operated nuclear reactors to conduct air operations. After leaving the Navy, she started a business that sold aquatic souvenirs. Her husband, Robert Blondin, is a retired Navy commander (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Running for Congress in 2018, Luria easily won her Democratic primary. She defeated incumbent Scott Taylor, first elected in 2016. Taylor, a retired Navy Seal sniper, was tarred by scandal. Taylor’s campaign aides forged signatures on petitions for an independent candidate to run against Luria which would have taken votes from her. A local judge ordered the third-party candidate’s name removed from the ballot because of “out-and-out fraud.” Luria attacked Taylor for voting to repeal Obamacare. She defeated him in this swingy/GOP leaning district by 2 points, 51%-49% (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In her first term in the House, Cong. Luria protected her coastal district’s interests. In 2020, the House passed her bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay clean-up. Cong. Luria is an outspoken ideological moderate. In 2019-2020. Luria had, according to the Almanac Ratings, a composite 51% Liberal -49% Conservative record, as close as a legislator can get to the middle of the political spectrum (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac). During the Campaign 2020 presidential primaries, Cong. Luria endorsed Joe Biden. She believed VT’s Senator Bernie Sanders would be too divisive. A religious Jew, Luria was able to get the carrier she was on to conduct a Passover Seder that was attended by both Jews and non-Jews (jta.com, 2018). Rep. Luria co-wrote a letter urging colleagues to condemn anti-Semitic language and tropes that Cong. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had used in tweets. Omar was properly condemned by the Democratic House majority for these statements (See Cohen & Cook 2022).
Cong. Luria was part of a group of newly-elected congressional Democratic House women who called themselves the “Badasses.” This group consisted of military veterans and people with CIA and national security backgrounds who represented very challenging congressional districts. Besides Luria, the “Badasses” included Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). For a long time, Cong. Luria and her fellow “Badasses” opposed calling for an independent impeachment inquiry against Trump. However, after a whistleblower’s allegations that Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Zelensky to uncover dirt on Joe Biden or not get major weapons already approved by Congress, Luria changed her mind. She and fellow centrist “Badass” members wrote an op-ed to the Washington Post arguing for impeachment in view of these facts. “Badass” Luria and her allies risked their hard-won seats, seats that gave the Democrats their 2018 House majority, with their courageous stand for impeachment (Schiff, A., “Midnight In Washington,” 2021, Cohen & Cook 2022). At a town hall meeting, Cong. Luria correctly and bravely told her constituents, “I didn’t spend 20 years in uniform defending our country to watch something like this (Cohen & Cook 2022).”
Cong. Luria’s vote to impeach Trump over shaking down Zelensky caused former 2nd CD GOP Cong. Scott Taylor to challenge Luria again in 11/2020. Taylor, however, was still tainted by the signature-forgery scandal that defeated him in 2018. Democrats outside Luria’s 2nd CD ran TV ads for Luria in which they emphasized this scandal. Outside GOP groups gave Taylor millions of dollars to stay competitive. In the end, Luria won, beating Taylor this time by 6 points, 52%-46%. Democratic turnout and Biden’s winning the swingy VA 2nd certainly aided her re-election.
Can Cong. Luria win again in 2022? Midterm 2022 is considered by most pundits to favor the opposition GOP party. Midterm elections are not considered “glamorous,” unlike presidential ones. And, unfortunately, despite much of the key legislation he has passed, Biden’s ratings are not very strong. When Luria first won in 2018 by 51%-49%, she took 51% of the vote in Virginia Beach, while Taylor took 55% of the vote in York County, the 2nd’s next-largest locality. Luria also led in other areas. In her 2020 re-election bid, when she took 52% of the vote to Taylor’s 46%, she won 52% in Virginia Beach and 60% in Norfolk. Taylor won York County again, but lost most other areas in the 2nd. Redistricting in VA has now been given to an independent commission, so Luria will have little ability to get a more favorably re-drawn district. The GOP has a 6/21/2022 primary and one of the candidates in that race, Jennifer Kiggans, was a former Navy pilot for 10 years who flew helicopters (wikipedia). Kiggans doesn’t carry Taylor’s scandal-tainted baggage. Should she win the nomination, the Luria-Kiggans general election battle will be a very tough one with two women having military backgrounds going against each other. Kiggans will be a strong conservative who will fight any progressive measures and vote in lockstep with the reactionary GOP. She will certainly want to close down the January 6, 2021 investigation into the Trump-incited and led riot. In 11/2022, Democrats in the 2nd must come out in droves plus to vote for courageous moderate Cong. Luria to help keep the House in “Team Blue’s” hands. Biden’s progressive agenda, indeed, our democracy, depends upon us keeping both the House and Senate away from the Trump-dominated GOP.