RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Republican state delegate running to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor is accusing another GOP candidate of homophobia.
The issue came to light earlier this week when Del. Glenn Davis Jr. (R-Virginia Beach) sent a tweet condemning former delegate Tim Hugo, a fellow Republican in the race for lieutenant governor, for being connected to the mailer that showed Davis attending a PrideFest event wearing a rainbow-striped shirt. The mailer was sent to convention delegates with a message claiming Davis was not a true Republican.
“Tim Hugo sent a mailer attacking me for participating in #Pridefest with @RPofVB. I’m sorry for my colleague’s #homophobia, but I don’t believe the government has any place in our bedrooms PERIOD,” Davis wrote on April 27.
Hugo was not available for an interview Friday. His campaign manager, Dustin Rhodes, said in a statement the mailer was sent only to expose Del. Davis’s “liberal voting record” and that the image was from the delegate’s public Facebook page.
“Accusations that it was anything else are nothing more than an attempt to distract voters from the fact that Glenn supported Obamacare expansion and voted this year to give taxpayer funded tuition to illegal immigrants,” Rhodes said.
Davis called the statement from Rhodes “disingenuous,” telling 8News in an interview that using the photo was a deliberate political move and that “coincidence only goes so far.”
“I couldn’t believe that one of my opponents would be attacking me for joining my local Republican committee at PrideFest,” Davis said Friday. “We believe in a big tent and I’m very surprised I’m being criticized for outreach, something we talk about doing more of as Republicans.”
The day after publicly denouncing the mailer, Davis tweeted that an anonymous text message had also been sent out to delegates voting in the upcoming GOP nominating convention on May 8 attacking his campaign.
The language and rhetoric in the text message, which was shared with 8News, was denounced by Democrats and Republicans after it was made public.
“Did you know Glenn Davis is a Gay Democrat,” the text begins, eventually telling people who got the message to “Help Glenn come out of the closet by not ranking him on May 8th.”
The message claimed past votes from Davis, including one approving the budget in May 2018 to expand Medicaid expansion to 400,000 low-income residents, prove that he’s not a Republican. That year, Davis and several other Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly supported the measure.
Davis did not blame Hugo for the message, even though it does use the same image as the mailer and say Hugo is “the only conservative” in the race, instead claiming the attack appeared to be “eerily similar to verbal attacks from another campaign” in his tweet.
While not referencing the mailer, Hugo denied that his campaign had played a part in the text messages sent to convention delegates on social media.
“A recent text sent attacking my opponent Glenn Davis is NOT from our campaign,” Hugo wrote on Twitter. “We condemn the language used in this ridiculous text. The text that went out tonight falsely identifying as us was illegal. We intend to track down those responsible & hold them accountable.”
Virginia law requires political ads to include a statement indicating who is behind them before they can be sent out to voters. In an email to 8News, a Virginia Department of Elections spokeswoman said the department “does not have the authority” to investigate the message.
In his interview with 8News, Davis said he was “disgusted” when he first saw the text message and that he believes it was unlawful on multiple fronts, saying it “exceeds the bar for defamation of character.”
David shared he is actively pursuing efforts to identify who is responsible, reiterating that he believes Hugo was not behind the text message. Rhodes added Hugo’s campaign is “still gathering our own information, and will turn it over to the responsible authority once we have the complete picture.”
Republicans will pick candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general during a May 8 convention. Twelve candidates, six Democrats and six Republicans, are vying to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor.
The official duties of Virginia’s lieutenant governor are to preside over the Virginia Senate as the president of the chamber and to succeed the governor if they were to leave office for any reason before their term is over. As president of the Virginia Senate, the lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes when senators are split on a measure and can make rulings on disputes between lawmakers.