RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- At a rally on Tuesday, Glenn Youngkin vowed to turn Virginia red again as he aims to break through more than a decade of Republican upsets in statewide elections.
The event in Richmond was Youngkin’s first formal appearance since winning the Republican nomination for governor.
Youngkin, a political newcomer, emerged from a crowded field of candidates to take the GOP convention’s top prize. After a full day of ballot-counting, he edged past his final opponent Pete Snyder late Monday night in the sixth round of weighted, ranked-choice voting.
“Virginians are so ready for a common-sense outsider who can deliver results. They’re tired of this political machinery,” Youngkin told 8News in an interview on Tuesday.
The 54-year-old former CEO of The Carlyle Group, who has largely self-funded his campaign to date, didn’t say how much he planned to spend out-of-pocket during the General Election.
“We’re going to make sure this campaign is resourced like no Republican campaign has been resourced historically,” Youngkin said.
Youngkin is running as a pro-business conservative who will stand up to unions, lower taxes, recruit jobs and boost Virginia’s post-pandemic economy.
The pitch won him the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who said in a statement on Tuesday that Youngkin “knows how to make Virginia’s economy rip-roaring.”
In front of a mask-less crowd, Youngkin slammed Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He said the Administration has failed unemployed Virginians and imposed overly restrictive measures that have crushed small businesses. If elected, he said he would reopen Virginia immediately and make sure all kids were in school five days per week.
“I’m a big fan of facts. I’m a big fan of science and I believe Gov. Northam hasn’t followed either one of them. He has made arbitrary decisions that will put lives and livelihoods at risk,” Youngkin echoed in an interview.
Youngkin threw his support behind a number of hot-button issues on Tuesday. He staged himself as fierce defender of the second amendment and pledged to restore voter identification laws. He also supported school choice, pledged to ban critical race theory from public education and denounced efforts to reform math instruction.
Furthermore, Youngkin rejected calls to “defund the police” and end qualified immunity–the legal defense that makes it more difficult to sue law enforcement for civil rights violations.
“These issues are not Republican vs. Democrat. These issues are in fact far left vs. Virginia,” Youngkin said. “What I’ve seen from the Republican Party is that we’re ready to talk about addition and multiplication and not division and subtraction. This is a different playbook than the Republican Party has run for the last 10 years.”
While some are calling Youngkin the most electable Republican nominee, 8News Political Analyst Rich Meagher said it won’t be easy to disrupt the Democratic winning streak as demographics shift in their favor.
“It’s not impossible for the Republicans to win but they have a real uphill battle,” Meagher said.
Meagher said one of Youngkin’s biggest challenges will be satisfying the pro-Trump base while recruiting more moderate voters.
“It is really difficult to thread that needle and it remains to be seen how Youngkin is going to figure it out. He hasn’t talked a lot about Trump on the campaign trail so far but he is happy to accept the support of the President,” Meagher said.
8News asked Youngkin twice if he would separate himself from President Trump in any areas. He didn’t provide any examples. While he denounced the attacks on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, he didn’t directly blame Trump for inciting the violence.
Meanwhile, Democrats are framing Trump’s endorsement as evidence that Youngkin is beholden to far-right extremists.
“Instead of focusing on moving Virginia forward from the COVID pandemic, Youngkin focused his campaign on one thing: proving his loyalty to Donald Trump,” said Virginia’s Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker. “He spent the final week of the campaign cozying up to the fringes of the Republican Party.”
Democrats will be choosing their nominees in a primary election on June 8th. Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has emerged as a clear front runner and an early target of Youngkin.
Still unclear is whether state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), who has described herself as “Trump in heels,” will pose a threat to Youngkin in the General Election.
Despite losing the Republican nomination for governor on Monday, Chase has not endorsed Youngkin, agreed to interviews nor confirmed whether she has abandoned plans to run as an independent.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Chase called the convention rigged and said she would have more to say in the days ahead.
“An Amanda Chase independent candidacy for governor dooms Republicans in the fall,’ Meagher said. “They need all the votes they can get.”
At Tuesday’s rally, Youngkin addressed Chase’s absence, telling the crowd she’s on a family vacation and that the party would move together as one team.