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Virginia GOP Chooses Political Newcomer Youngkin As Nominee For Governor

Then-Carlyle Group President Glenn Youngkin is seen during a 2017 panel. The first-time political candidate is the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia.
Then-Carlyle Group President Glenn Youngkin is seen during a 2017 panel. The first-time political candidate is the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia.

Virginia Republicans have chosen businessman and first-time political candidate Glenn Youngkin to be their nominee for governor.

"I am prepared to lead, excited to serve and profoundly humbled by the trust the people have placed in me," Youngkin said in a statement late Monday, after his victory was secured. "Virginians have made it clear that they are ready for a political outsider with proven business experience to bring real change in Richmond."

Youngkin, who has already poured more than $5.5 million of his personal funds into his campaign, emerged from a bruising nomination fight with six other candidates that concluded with a multi-location party convention.

Tech entrepreneur Pete Snyder took second place in the ranked-choice runoff, conceding Monday evening. Controversial state Sen. Amanda Chase came in third.

The GOP candidates competed in a party-run convention held at 39 sites across the commonwealth on Saturday. The party spent over 12 hours Monday hand-counting roughly 30,000 ballots.

The 54-year-old Youngkin pitched himself as a pro-life and pro-gun Christian who is best-positioned to take on Democrats in the vote-rich suburbs of Washington, D.C., Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Republicans haven't won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009.

Youngkin is a former CEO of Carlyle Group, an investment firm, and vowed to use his wealth to influence local as well as statewide conservatives.

"If we don't push back against the money that's coming from [liberal financier] George Soros and others, we will never win these most important local seats," Youngkin told a crowd of Republicans at an event outside Richmond last month. "It will not be a lonely victory for me in November."

Much of Youngkin's spending so far has gone into TV ads, including one featuring former President Donald Trump. Several former Trump staffers worked on Youngkin's campaign.

Youngkin's first policy proposal — an "Election Integrity Task Force" — took a cue from the former president's rhetoric. Youngkin argued that voters from both sides of the aisle distrust elections, pointing to voters who challenged the 2016 and 2020 presidential counts. Youngkin stumped alongside U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the effort in the Senate to object to the certification of President Biden's victory.

Pressed on whether he personally believed false claims of widespread voter fraud, Youngkin hedged.

"Our president is Joe Biden because he was inaugurated as such," he said. "And so what we have to do is look forward at what we have to fix."

Youngkin has called for a tightening of Virginia's voting laws, which were expanded when Democrats took control of the state legislature in 2020. His proposals include photo IDs for all ballots, an application to prove citizenship before casting mail-in ballots and two witness signatures for mail-in ballots.

Along with other GOP candidates, Youngkin railed against school closures amid the pandemic and vowed to defend law enforcement. He got blowback from some conservatives for not answering questionnaires sent by the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League — a move some activists argued would precipitate a pivot on the issue in the general election.

Rich Anderson, chair of the state GOP, said the party would unite beyond its statewide candidates despite a campaign that was heavy on attack ads.

"That's not just the party chairman with happy talk," Anderson said in an interview Monday. "This is a pendulum business. A party can stay in power for only so long."

Youngkin will face the winner of a June 8 state-run Democratic primary. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe holds a large lead over four other candidates in recent polls.

Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, painted Youngkin as a "far-right extremist who has demonstrated total allegiance to Donald Trump."

"Throughout this campaign, Youngkin has advanced Trump's dangerous election conspiracy theories, opposed critical COVID-19 relief for working families and small businesses, and threatened to gut Virginians' health care," she said in a statement.

Copyright 2021 VPM. To see more, visit VPM.