By Rose Horowitch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Representative Elaine Luria's stint on Thursday leading the questioning at a prime-time hearing into the assault on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump will be the highest-profile moment of her four-year-old legislative career.
The former Navy commander was part of a class of Democrats first elected to Congress in 2018 on a "blue wave" of liberal outrage over Trump's conduct in the White House.
The moderate hopes her turn in the spotlight won't dim her standing with constituents in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as she defends her seat, one of the most competitive in the House of Representatives this year and the kind of seat her party needs to hold if it's going to limit Republican gains in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
"It's kind of like the Florida of Virginia," said J. Miles Coleman, an expert at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "If Republicans have a big night in the House, it's a district that they should be able to win."
Luria, 46, will have an audience of millions as she leads the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, 2021, hearing through a detailed accounting of Trump's actions during the 187 minutes his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to halt certification of Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 presidential election win.
Still, Luria previously said that this investigation, with its national security implications, is more important than her seat in Congress.
"The most frequent thing people say to me is 'thank you for the work you're doing on the committee,'" Luria said in a recent interview. "It's resonating with people."
Biden narrowly won Luria's coastal district in 2020, but the district frequently flips parties, Coleman said.
Luria has made her service on the committee a "central theme" of her race, said David Wasserman, senior editor of The Cook Political Report.
"It's raised her profile," he said. "But it is a risk at a time when voters are first and foremost concerned about inflation."
Luria in November will face Republican challenger Jen Kiggans, a state senator and fellow Navy veteran. Kiggans voted earlier this year for an audit of the state's 2020 election results, helping her secure the Republican nomination. But she has avoided addressing the former president directly, instead structuring her campaign around more classic conservative issues including opposing abortion rights, gun control, and illegal immigration.
Soaring inflation and discontent with Democratic leadership could propel Kiggans to a win, Coleman said.
“All she basically has to do in terms of messaging is complain about Biden and link Luria to Joe Biden,” Coleman said
(Reporting by Rose Horowitch, additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)