Photo by Katherine Hafner. Tidal flooding at The Hague in Norfolk in May 2022.

VA - Climate change ‘serious issue’ for Hampton Roads, but not in recent election

Sea level rise will continue to impact the Hampton Roads area, scientists warn, but climate change was not necessarily an issue that pulled 2nd District voters to the polls — and it was not a part of the candidates’ platforms either.

The tight race ended with a defeat for Democrat and two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria. Republican challenger and former state Sen. Jen Kiggans won with just over 10,000 more votes and was the only Virginia congressional candidate to beat an incumbent in the midterm elections.  Virginia Beach voters reported their overall top issues were economic security, abortion and threats to democracy, according to a Wason Center poll of 2nd District voters released in mid-October. However, the priority of each issue was different between Democrats and Republicans.  Democrat and Independent voters surveyed throughout Virginia, not just the 2nd District, did rank climate change as very important, according to a Wason Center poll also published in October. Voters could rank the importance of multiple issues. It appears when voters don’t have to prioritize climate change against other issues, such as economy and abortion, they say it is important.

Maria Reynoso is the founder and executive director for We Vote Virginia, a nonpartisan digital media resource to help voters become more informed.  “Although climate change has been on the minds of voters, it does seem like more national issues moved them,” Reynoso stated.  Virginia Beach voters represent almost 60% of the 2nd District, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. This coastal region is experiencing the highest rate of sea level rise on the East Coast, according to the City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works.

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