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ODU Graduate Elaine Luria Wins Tight Election for Seat in U.S. Congress

By Harry Minium

An Old Dominion University graduate is headed to the United States Congress.

Elaine Luria, a Norfolk resident and first-time political candidate, upset U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach, in the 2nd District Congressional District race Tuesday. While serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Luria earned a master's degree in engineering management from ODU in 2004.

A Democrat, Luria will represent Virginia Beach, the northern part of Norfolk, the Eastern Shore and a portion of the Peninsula when the 116th Congress convenes in Washington on Jan. 3.

ODU professor G. William Whitehurst also represented the 2nd District as a moderate Republican from 1968 through 1986.

Luria says she decided to attend ODU because of its partnership with the Navy Nuclear Power Program. She completed her degree while deployed in the Navy in part because of the flexibility the University provides to military students who pursue degrees online.

Kathryn Sorenson, her campaign manager, said Luria met with ODU President John R. Broderick in February, just weeks after launching her campaign, because of her commitment to making higher education affordable and to discuss the challenges faced by faculty, administrators and students.

"Elaine looks forward to continuing this conversation with ODU on research projects related to sea-level rise, renewable energy and how resiliency infrastructure can be utilized to grow our regional economy here in Hampton Roads," Sorenson said.

A native of Birmingham, Ala., Luria graduated from the Naval Academy in 1997 with degrees in physics and history and a minor in French. Luria served in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. A flag aide to the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, she was deployed to Japan and stationed aboard the flagship USS Blue Ridge while working on her degree at ODU.

In 2005, she married Robert Blondin, who also has a master's degree from ODU. She continued to serve in the Navy and operated nuclear reactors aboard the USS Enterprise when it conducted air strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From 2013 to 2014, she served as executive officer of the USS Anzio, where she was second in command of a guided missile cruiser with a crew of 300.

She and her husband in 2013 opened the Norfolk location of the Mermaid Factory, an outlet that makes plaster mermaids, the symbol of the city of Norfolk. They opened a Virginia Beach site in 2015. Last year, Luria retired from the Navy after a 20-year career.

In the election Tuesday, Luria received 51.1 percent of the vote, winning by 6,015 votes out of nearly 273,000 cast.

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