Rep. Abigail Spanberger is one of the most proactive members of Congress that Virginia’s electric cooperatives have ever worked with, regularly reaching out to offer help on crucial issues affecting consumer-members, the state’s co-op leaders say.

“She’s an absolutely amazing partner for us in Washington,” says Andrew Vehorn, vice president of member and external affairs at the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives in Richmond, Virginia.

The Democratic congresswoman lives in suburban Richmond and drew her strongest support from the suburbs when she first ran for the House in 2018, but she has proven to be a fierce advocate for the rural communities in her district, Vehorn says.

“She reached out to us from day one,” he says. “She has a servant’s heart, and she was a quick study. She realized right away that if you want to know about energy or broadband, come to us.”

Spanberger regularly contacts Rappahannock Electric Cooperative—the biggest co-op in her district—to make sure its leaders know about federal funding opportunities and to support their grant applications, says Lindsey Watson, the co-op’s director of government affairs.

When Central Virginia Electric Cooperative ran into delays getting a federal broadband grant from the Department of Agriculture, Spanberger helped speed things along, Vehorn says.

“She’s always been very engaged, very responsive,” Watson says. “I think her caring really shines through. You can tell she’s listening. She’s definitely a co-op champion.”

The congresswoman serves on the House Agriculture Committee and has held a series of roundtables in her district to get her constituents’ input on the Farm Bill.

She has invited local co-op leaders to attend sessions that address rural broadband and energy issues.

Spanberger has made broadband infrastructure expansion in rural Virginia one of her top priorities.

“Rural communities feed and fuel the rest of Virginia and our nation,” she told co-op leaders at NRECA’s Legislative Conference in April. “Unfortunately, at times it seems like rural America can get left out of the conversations on infrastructure and economic development.”

Spanberger voted for the bipartisan infrastructure law, which is providing $65 billion in broadband funding that she says will “strengthen our rural economy for the next generation of Americans.”

She also supported the Inflation Reduction Act, which included direct-pay tax credits for electric co-ops to deploy new energy technologies. The bill also created a $9.7 billion USDA program just for electric co-ops interested in buying or building new clean energy systems. That program has proven popular with co-ops, which flooded the agency with requests to fund projects.

As a former CIA agent and current member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Spanberger is sensitive to security issues affecting utilities, says Sadie Gary, public affairs director at the statewide association.

“She has a real understanding of what our vulnerabilities are,” Gary says. “She recognizes that reliability is a national security issue.”

Spanberger is a frequent visitor at her local co-ops.

“In my time here, I can’t remember another member of Congress who has made more visits to co-ops, especially considering the short time she’s been in office,” Gary says.

Spanberger says co-ops “are integral to making sure we are not leaving Virginia’s rural communities behind as we invest in our economic future.”

“Many of the Virginians I serve depend on electric co-ops for reliable power and affordable, high-speed internet access—utilities that are essential to everyday life,” she says.

“Virginia’s local electric co-ops have built support at the federal level for expanding broadband internet access, lowering costs, and supporting rural America.

Since I first came to office, Virginia’s co-ops have been invaluable partners, and I will continue to look to them as we deliver for our rural communities.”

The 44-year-old congresswoman is seen as a rising political star in Virginia, Gary says. Spanberger announced in November that she will run for governor of Virginia in 2025.

“When she walks into a room, she commands respect,” she says. “She’s got this presence, this political X-factor. I think she has a great political future, and I feel confident that she will always be a great ally to co-ops.”

Despite all that, she is down-to-earth and approachable, co-op leaders say.

“Lindsey and I saw her with one of her daughters at the mall, and we weren’t going to bother her,” Gary says. “But she spotted us and called out Lindsey’s name and came over to talk to us. That’s the kind of person she is. She actively wants to talk to her constituents.”