Virginia Republicans to Select Statewide Nominees Saturday

May 8, 2021 by Dan McCue
Kirk Cox. (Courtesy of Kirk Cox campaign)

Republicans will gather at 39 sites around Virginia Saturday to choose a slate of statewide candidates, with no choice, of course, being more important than that of governor.

In a year in which the battle for the future of the GOP has mostly been waged in Washington, and defined by the building fracas between House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, and Rep. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, the outcome of this year’s governor’s race may well be the most telling portent of the 2022 mid-terms.

The leading contenders are Kirk Cox, a former speaker of the House in the state’s General Assembly, who is the favorite of establishment Republicans; State Senator Amanda Chase, a firebrand censured for “fomenting insurrection” for her public support of political rallies in Washington on Jan. 6 that led to a riot at the U.S. Capitol; Pete Snyder, a wealthy technology executive; and Glenn Youngkin, a first-time candidate with a large fortune from a career in private equity. 

Peter Doran, Octavia L. Johnson, and Sergio de la Pena are also running on the ballot for governor in the Republican convention.

In a year when the Republican Party appears to be moving evermore sharply toward being the party of former President Donald Trump, Cox is said to be hoping the other top candidates — all Trump acolytes — cancel each other out and give him a chance to grab the nomination on a second or third ballot.

Virginia’s Republicans rely on ranked-choice voting at their conventions, meaning if no one garners more than 50% of the voters’ support, the last-place finisher is eliminated and his or her second-choice votes will be allocated to the remaining candidates.

The “voters” in this case, are delegates who have all been vetted by local Republican officials. 

The balloting continues until someone finally attains a majority of support.

While the number of Trump-centric candidates suggests he has broad appeal in the state, poll and other numbers suggest the GOP is running against the grain in Virginia.

Trump himself lost the state by 10 percentage points in November, and a recent poll done by Christopher Newport University found that majorities of Virginia voters actually prefer more “Democratic” policies like providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and taking steps to address climate change.

Long-timers on the Virginia political scene say the embrace of Trump is just another example of candidates trying to appeal to whatever’s the party’s base is perceived for the primary. The problem is Republicans haven’t done too well making the pivot to appeal to the broader electorate in general elections.

Since 2009, the party has lost 13 consecutive statewide elections.

Whoever prevails at the convention on Saturday, it now appears likely they will be squaring off against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the leading Democrat heading into his party’s June 8 primary.

McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018, and like all Virginia governors, was barred from seeking a consecutive term.

He has been leading in public polling, has a commanding fundraising advantage, and has an unmatched number of endorsements, including that of Gov. Ralph Northam and many of the state’s most powerful Black lawmakers.

His opponents are Jennifer Carroll Foy, a former state delegate and public defender; State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, an attorney and veteran legislator; and the state’s current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

If either McClellan or Carroll Foy managed to catch up and beat McAuliffe in the primary, either would be the nation’s first Black woman governor if elected in November.

Six candidates are running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor Saturday. They are: Puneet Ahluwalia, Lance Allen, Glenn Davis, Tim Hugo, Maeve Rigler and Winsome Sears.

Four candidates are vying to be the party’s nominee for attorney general. They are: Leslie Haley, Jason Miyares, Chuck Smith and Jack White.

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