Debates, Tours, Endorsements, and a Florida Stop: Virginia Candidates Battle for Nomination


The race for the GOP nomination for the top Virginia positions is coming to an end, leading to a debate, tours, and a trip to Florida. In the Democratic primary, early voting has already begun, but big nominations are still rolling in.

GOP Gubernatorial Debate

Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Sergio De la Peña, Peter Doran, and Glenn Youngkin participated in the GOP gubernatorial debate. Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), Pete Snyder, and Octavia Johnson were absent. Moderators said Democratic candidates for governor were also invited, but none participated.

The debate was hosted in Colonial Heights at the Life Church by the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Family Foundation. Moderators began by asking candidates how they would lead and bring healing to a Virginia with fractured relationships between police and communities.

Doran said he was the only one with a specific vision for Virginia. He said he has multiple relatives who are or were law enforcement officers including his brother-in-law, grandfather, and grandmother. He said Virginia’s law enforcement needed to know that their governor supported them.

“Blue is family,” he said. “We also need to make sure that they have the best training in the country. When I say that Virginia is going to be number one, we are going to have the best-trained, best-paid police force in the country.”

Youngkin said, “One of the biggest challenges we face in law enforcement is that they’ve been defunded.”

He spoke against ending qualified immunity and called for increasing law enforcement funding. But he said he has also built coalitions into minority communities. “We have to grow our party through addition and multiplication. Not through subtraction and division.”

Cox said one of his first proposals was to pay law enforcement more and highlighted mental health issues and qualified immunity as challenges facing officers. He cited his victory in House of Delegates elections in a district with strong minority presence. He said part of his strategy was strong community outreach.

Cox said, “Let’s face it, Republicans. We don’t always get out of our comfort zones and talk to people about issues they care about.”

De la Peña highlighted his experience training police officers internationally. “In the case of the Commonwealth, what we’ve had is a guy like Terry McAuliffe that has intentionally gone out and weakened the ability of the police to enforce the law,” he said.

He said that immigrant and minority communities are disproportionately hurt by those policies and said that he has used his background as an immigrant to reach out to other immigrants. “The way to have the American dream is you have to have strong families, meaningful work, and safe neighborhoods,” De la Peña said.

Watch the full debate here:

Chase Speaks at “America First” Rally in Florida

Chase headed down to Vero Beach, Florida where she joined other hard-line Republican political figures including Michael Flynn.

In her speech, Chase referred to the Senate’s bipartisan vote to censure her and was cheered by the crowd.

“I publicly said that the 2020 election was stolen.” Chase said, “One of the main reasons that I was censured is because I called those of us ‘patriots’ who attended the January 6 rally, exercising our first amendment rights to express our grievances to our government.”

She closed her speech saying that Republicans needed to replace RINOs with firebrands.

“We want this election fraud dumpster fire disaster exposed,” she said. “And we want the right president put in office.”

Snyder Launches ‘Conservative Outlaw’ Tour

Snyder is launching a tour across Virginia’s congressional districts, where he will be joined by “Conservative Outlaw” special guests and his barbecue smoker.

“I’ve been active in our conservative movement for over twenty-five years,” he said in an announcement. “I know firsthand in order to change hearts and minds, sometimes the best path is through one’s stomach.”

Winsome Sears Launches ‘Take Back the Commonwealth’ Tour

Lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Sears is also touring the state in the final weeks leading to the GOP convention.

After spending 2020 on the campaign trail in the battleground states for President Trump, I’m excited to be out talking to voters about the everyday issues they are facing and presenting the case for how we will Take Back the Commonwealth in November,” she said in her announcement.

Governor Ralph Northam Endorses Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) for Lieutenant Governor

Although voting has already begun, polling in the Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial primary race has noticeably high numbers of undecided voters; according to a Wason Center Poll released last week, Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) is leading with 12 percent, while the other candidates still in the race scored below two percent.

On Monday, Ayala picked up endorsements from three top Virginia Democrats: Governor Ralph Northam, Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax,) and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria.)

“During my time as Governor, we have made extraordinary progress in our Commonwealth, from expanding Medicaid for 500,000 Virginians to passing critical criminal justice reforms,” Northam said in a press release. “We need to continue building on that progress, and that’s why I am so excited to endorse Delegate Hala Ayala for Lieutenant Governor. Her leadership in the House Democratic majority has been central to these and so many other historic pieces of legislation that are improving the lives of Virginia families.”

Democratic pundit Ben Tribbett suggested that Northam’s endorsement will harm Attorney General candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), who Northam also endorsed.

The more endorsements someone makes the more devalued they become for the others. Gov getting involved for Hala will harm Jay as much as it helps her,” Tribbett tweeted.

The Washington Post Editorial Board Endorses Terry McAuliffe

The newspaper’s editorial board endorsed McAuliffe again, after endorsed him in 2013. The board cites McAuliffe’s experience, calling him an “excellent governor” while saying his opponents lack statewide political experience.

Social media commenters were surprised by the comparatively early timing of the endorsement. Others said the endorsement may not boost McAuliffe, but might lower the numbers of voters who would consider his opponents.

The board wrote, “By contrast, [McAuliffe’s] primary rivals are relatively untested on a statewide stage. Ms. McClellan is a consummate insider in the General Assembly, where she has served 15 years, but her nose-to-the-grindstone legislative approach may be less effective in an executive role. Ms. Carroll Foy, who has appealed to the party’s liberal wing, grew up in poverty and has a compelling personal story; nonetheless, her political experience — she served just three years in the House of Delegates before resigning to run for governor — is thin.”

Sharon Yang, a member of Carrol Foy’s communications team, compared the board’s criticism of Carrol Foy with the board’s 2013 endorsement where the board said McAuliffe lacks “close engagement with policy” but called him the “ultimate political insider.”

“Glad the @washingtonpost recognized @JCarrollFoy ‘s compelling message, but calling her experience ‘thin’ when this is how they described McAuliffe’s *zero* years of policy experience in their 2013 endorsement is a reminder of the insider politics she’s running against,” she tweeted.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].

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