RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Kirk Cox, the former Virginia House speaker seeking the GOP nomination in the governor’s race, believes Republican candidates face a different electoral landscape than in 2019, when Democrats took control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation, citing the policies implemented under one-party rule since then.

Del. Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who narrowly won reelection with a redrawn district but lost his leadership role after Republicans lost the House two years ago, said Wednesday that Democratic candidates will have to defend the party’s platform in upcoming elections. He pointed to proposals previously defeated under GOP-control that Democrats have advanced.

“Here’s what I think is so different about this coming year,” Cox said in an interview. “Democrats have been in, and I would say it’s one party, Democratic control, for the last year. And so many of the, to me, the bad concepts they’ve had over the years, we had defeated. Now, they have passed.”

While the Democratic Party recently gained control of the General Assembly with a Democrat in the governor’s mansion, no Republican has won a statewide race since 2009. President Joe Biden took Virginia with 54% of the vote in the November election and U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) easily won reelection.

“Whether they be a lot of tax increases, regulation, the attack on law enforcement,” Cox said. “All of those different things, I really feel like set a totally different dynamic for the summer, where they’re going to have to defend that one party control and just the running of government.”

The former GOP speaker mentioned Virginia’s struggle with its initial vaccine rollout, the employment commission’s struggle to process claims for unemployed residents and concerns of test scores last spring.

Cox also addressed the Republican Party of Virginia’s intentions to hold a nominating convention to select its candidate, a decision that has been questioned by multiple GOP lawmakers and even drove another gubernatorial hopeful to file a lawsuit. He said he would welcome a statewide primary or convention, noting the candidate’s lack of influence on the effort.

“I’ve taken the stance that we’re the candidates. So, a sports analogy we’re the players and the State Central Committee are the referees. They set the rules,” Cox said of the GOP’s plans.

Another Republican gubernatorial contender, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) sued the Virginia GOP over the party’s plan to hold a convention instead of a statewide primary, arguing that possibly having 5,000 to 10,000 delegates “under one roof” violates gathering restrictions imposed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in response to the global pandemic. 

The lawsuit, filed in Richmond Circuit Court on Tuesday, seeks an injunction and a trial by or before Feb. 23, the deadline for the party to elect for a primary through Virginia’s Department of Elections. Without an order from a judge, the party is likely to hold a convention as the Republican State Central Committee has opted for the method in several meetings.

“I’ve been very clear that I’m more than happy to run in a primary. I’m more than happy to run a convention is, you know, is probably going to be an unassembled convention, which will sort of resemble a little bit of a party primary,” Cox added.

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