RICHMOND — A Hispanic single mother who leads an international nonprofit organization focused on religious freedom announced Monday she plans to challenge freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) in Virginia in 2020.
Tina Ramirez, 40, is the first candidate to seek the GOP nomination in the state’s 7th Congressional District. It is her first bid for elective office.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a doer,” the Richmond-area resident said in an interview Sunday. “I like to unify people and get things done.”
In a 90-second YouTube video, Ramirez describes herself as a single mother and former teacher who founded a nonprofit organization that has brought “freedom to persecuted communities worldwide.” She is shown on work assignments overseas and pushing her 4-year-old daughter, Abigail, on a swing.
“I will fight to defend the sanctity of every life, to defend religious freedoms and to create jobs and opportunities for hard-working Virginians,” she says in the video. “I will work to improve a broken education system, find sensible solutions to our health-care crisis and reform a failed system for our veterans. And I support real immigration reform that includes securing our border.”
Spanberger won the seat in November by defeating Republican Dave Brat in what had been a reliably red suburban Richmond district. As a little-known economics professor with tea party backing, Brat had won the seat four years earlier after beating then-Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor in the GOP primary — a stunning upset of an establishment figure that presaged the rise of Donald Trump.
[In Va. district that is a polarized American in miniature, Brat and Spanberger reach out to both sides]
Brat faced a tough opponent in Spanberger, a former CIA agent whose national security credentials and moderate positioning appealed to suburban women who don’t like Trump.
In several ways, Ramirez represents the sort of candidate GOP leaders say they need to stem their losses in the suburbs — Hispanic, highly educated and a woman. Her status as a single parent is considered something to play up, as a relatable bit of her biography.
A native of the Richmond area, Ramirez grew up in Powhatan and earned an undergraduate degree in history and political science from Vanguard University in California, then a master’s degree in education from the school. She later earned a master’s in international human rights law from the University of Essex in England.
She has held various positions in Washington promoting religious freedom, including as a staff member for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She also worked for a bipartisan House task force on the topic.
Six years ago, she started Hardwired, a nonprofit group that promotes religious freedom worldwide. She said the work has taken her to 30 countries and every continent.