Are the Jan. 6 hearings impacting how people vote? Here's what voters in Virginia say
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol plans to hold two more hearings this week. So how are those hearings landing with voters? Ben Paviour from member station VPM takes us to a swing district in Virginia, where primary voters go to the polls tomorrow.
BEN PAVIOUR, BYLINE: Kimberly Berryman (ph) is a strategic grocery shopper. Her budget is tight, and she goes to a few spots in Fredericksburg, Va., to find the best deal.
KIMBERLY BERRYMAN: Doing it all in one shot because, you know, gas prices, you have to, you know, make the whole trip count.
PAVIOUR: Berryman lives in the countryside, far enough out that she puts a cooler in her trunk to keep her corn cold. For Berryman, it's worlds away from the January 6 hearing going on at the Capitol.
BERRYMAN: I've got other things to do. I really do. I mean, I really don't pay attention to a lot of it, like I said.
PAVIOUR: Berryman says she usually votes for Democrats. That includes this swing district's current representative, Abigail Spanberger. Berryman says the January 6 attack was shocking, but she's more focused on rising bills and says Democrats aren't doing enough to fix it.
BERRYMAN: I don't think so at all. I'm really - like I said, I'm really disappointed because there's just so much that's going on. And then, you know, it's like they're sweeping things under the rug.
PAVIOUR: Berryman says she'd consider voting for a Republican if they address her concerns. I asked Spanberger how she would respond to voters like Berryman, who believe Democrats are too focused on January 6 at the expense of the economy.
ABIGAIL SPANBERGER: I would say that, certainly, I'm not that Democrat.
PAVIOUR: It's not that Spanberger is ignoring January 6. She was in the House chamber during the assault on the Capitol. She remembers watching the scene unfold from the gallery.
SPANBERGER: Capitol police officers barricading up the door with benches and tables.
PAVIOUR: And Spanberger believes the hearings are important for the health of the U.S. democracy.
SPANBERGER: And ensuring that something like we saw on January 6 doesn't ever occur in the future.
PAVIOUR: But the two-term Democrat says the hearings haven't stopped her from focusing on pocketbook issues. She sponsored legislation designed to prevent baby formula shortages and another to recruit more truckers to address supply chain issues. And she'd prefer to keep the focus there, rather than on the last president or even the current one. Spanberger won't say whether she wants President Biden to run again.
SPANBERGER: I'm focused on November '22 and continuing to serve my constituents.
PAVIOUR: The six Republicans vying to take on Spanberger have worked to pin her to Biden. Yesli Vega, a sheriff's deputy running for the GOP nomination, railed against the president and Spanberger to a crowd of a couple dozen Republicans in a gated community outside Fredericksburg.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
YESLI VEGA: Tell me one thing that they've done good aside from electing and converting more Republicans?
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Laughter).
VEGA: What have they done?
PAVIOUR: Despite the moderate lean of the district, Vega and her five GOP competitors are aligning themselves with Donald Trump. She says Democrats have squandered Trump's legacy.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
VEGA: They were handed the most secureist (ph) border, a thriving economy.
PAVIOUR: Another Republican in the field, Bryce Reeves, has made Trump a focus of his ads.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRYCE REEVES CAMPAIGN AD)
BRYCE REEVES: President Trump showed us how to stand up for the principles and values that make America great. I'm ready to finish what he started.
PAVIOUR: Most of the GOP candidates in the district have downplayed the January 6 attack. Some voters at Vega's event, like Deanne Marshall (ph), say the hearings aren't fair.
DEANNE MARSHALL: They're not showing the whole story and have no opposition. There's no true Republicans on that forum.
PAVIOUR: None of the GOP candidates will say whether they would have voted to certify the 2020 election. And the winner of this seat will be in the chamber after the next presidential election. For some Democratic voters in the district, like Courtney Dubois (ph), the January 6 hearings drive home the stakes.
COURTNEY DUBOIS: I believe it's important because everybody needs to know what's happening and what has happened and what we - the steps we can take to prevent this from happening again.
PAVIOUR: But with so much else on voters' minds, Dubois says she can only hope the hearings cut through the noise.
For NPR News, I'm Ben Paviour in Richmond.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.