During a debate Monday between Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Brat and his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's name was mentioned so many times that it almost seemed like she was Brat's opponent in the 7th District Congressional race.
Brat repeatedly attempted to paint Democrat Abigail Spanberger as a candidate in lockstep with Pelosi and what he called Pelosi's "failed liberal agenda." He also sought to link Spanberger to what he called the "failed policies" of former President Barack Obama.
Spanberger, a former CIA officer making her first run for political office, fired back, saying she questions whether Brat "knows which Democrat" he's running against.
"I am not Nancy Pelosi and I am not President Barack Obama," she said.
Brat, a former economics professor, stunned the political establishment in 2014 when he defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary and went on to win the seat. He easily won re-election in 2016.
Spanberger, a 39-year-old former CIA officer, is one of dozens of Democrats around the country hoping to take a Congressional seat in an area that typically votes Republican. The 7th District runs across most of central Virginia, including rural towns and the suburbs west of Richmond. President Donald Trump won the area by eight points in 2016.
Brat touted the 2017 Republican tax cuts, which he said put about $2,500 in the average family's pockets.
"The economy is booming now ... due to good Republican policy," he said.
Spanberger said the Republican tax bill did not do enough to help middle-class taxpayers and added $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit.
"Do you want the federal government routinely putting debt on the backs of your children and grandchildren?" she asked.
The two candidates also sparred on immigration, with Brat repeatedly criticizing Spanberger for supporting sanctuary cities and suggesting that the policy would give gang members a safe haven in the U.S.
"She's saying don't follow the law of the land, we should not cooperate with federal law enforcement, and that's stunning," Brat said.
Spanberger shot back at Brat, sarcastically reminding him that she worked in federal law enforcement.
"Congressman Brat, I appreciate you explaining to me the role of federal law enforcement agents because indeed I used to be one," she said. "I am well aware of the role of federal agents. I do not support safe havens for criminals or gangs."
The 90-minute debate at Germanna Community College was sponsored by the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce. It was broadcast live by WTVR-TV.
No other debates are currently scheduled between Brat and Spanberger.
Voters will head to the polls on Nov. 6.