CVRP hosts former Rep. Elaine Luria

Elaine Luria

Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Department of Community Values and Restorative Practices of the College of William and Mary’s Dean of Students Office hosted a discussion between Class of 1935 Professor John McGlennon and former Rep. Elaine Luria as part of its Values Week Featured Speaker series.

Luria, a Democrat and a Navy veteran, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2018 before Rep. Jen Kiggans unseated her in the 2022 election. During her time in office, she represented the College as Virginia’s second congressional district representative. 

“I would say that one of the saddest days, the day I have experienced in the not too distant past, was when we found out that our congressional district lines have been changed, and that you would no longer represent this area,” McGlennon said. “I say that because I think so many people in the Williamsburg area came up to a real appreciation for thoughtfulness, her grit, her determination and her effectiveness, during her service.”

Luria reflected on the state of today’s Congress, emphasizing the influence of the slim Republican majority on stagnation within the House of Representatives. She explained that while the previous session of Congress experienced more productivity, Luria believes bipartisanship still persists. Luria exemplified her statement with her time serving as vice chair of the House Armed Services committee.

“I can’t remember the exact number of years [but] that it’s over 50 years of the NDAA,” Luria said. “The National Defense Authorization Act has been passed every time, broadly bipartisan bases, even voting out of committee for the bill.” 

She also shared an experience where the White House, under President Joe Biden, contacted her and asked her to not introduce amendments that would increase the defense budget. The White House preferred for Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican ranking member, to do so.

“It was one of those things where it felt like it was important to stand on principle, and I knew it was the right thing,” Luria said. “And I didn’t have any problem standing up to the president, whether it was my own party or in the previous administration with President Trump.”

Luria also touched upon her experience serving on the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, also called the January 6th Committee. 

“I thought to myself, I’m relatively new to Congress,” Luria said. “You know, I’m sure they’re going to pick people who are more senior, you know, the people who had been impeachment managers before, kind of looking at their experience is a lot of them are lawyers or had background in law.”

According to Luria, serving on the committee would be the single most important thing she could do while serving in Congress.

“As I wrote a letter to leadership, and stating the reasons why I thought it was important, what I thought upholding the Constitution, really citing the fact that, you know, the first time I took an oath to defend the Constitution, I was 17 when I came to the Naval Academy, and then throughout my career in the military, through my time in Congress, I continued to take that oath to serve,” Luria added.

Luria also remarked about the College main campus’s current representative in Congress, Republican Rep. Rob Wittman, who she said she got to work with very closely. She referenced Wittman’s vote to not certify Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes for President Joe Biden in 2021, joining a group of 147 Republicans.

“Your representative right here, right now, Rob Wittman, did not — I think — voted against certifying one of the two state’s results,” Luria said. “And I thought to myself, you know, I work with Rob all the time. We were, in my first term in Congress, the vice chair and the vice ranking member of the Seapower subcommittee, the next Congress, we were the vice chair and the vice ranking member of the Farm Services Committee.”

Luria and Wittman previously worked together both at the legislative level on the Armed Services Committee and on the local level as their districts bordered each other. This also led to close collaboration between their respective staff members.  

Luria encouraged her staff members to learn from Wittman’s office, explaining her respect for many efforts his office facilitated, in particular Wittman’s newsletter. However, her respect for Wittman eroded after his vote to not certify Pennsylvania’s election results.

Eleanor Grant ’25 reflected on feeling connected to Luria, as her mother attended the United States Air Force Academy. Grant also emphasized Luria’s message that there are also Democrats who are passionate about defense policy, despite there being a perception of the contrary.

“Just being a woman in a room full of men all the time, constantly, and especially in that really high pressure situation,” Grant said. “I really connected with her on that level.”

Mia Ryan ’26 also expressed appreciation for the discussion.

“To hear someone who is proudly bipartisan and willing to work with people on either side and just like a real person was refreshing,” Ryan said.


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