RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Republican candidate for Virginia attorney general will attend a campaign event for a House candidate this Saturday instead of the closing banquet of an “election integrity” rally at Liberty University, a two-day event that has caused an uproar among Democrats.
Del. Jason Miyares, the GOP nominee in the attorney general’s race, does not plan to make an appearance, but his campaign manager noted the decision was not made in response to Attorney General Mark Herring’s calls for Miyares to withdraw.
“Jason is scheduled to campaign with Harold Pyon on Saturday,” Miyares campaign manager Klarke Kilgore said in a statement Tuesday. “Despite Mark Herring’s best attempts, he doesn’t dictate our campaign scheduling.”
Virginia’s 5th Congressional District Republican Committee organized the rally, listing the candidates on the statewide GOP ticket as featured guests for a banquet scheduled for 5 p.m. on Aug. 7.
Herring, who is seeking a third term against Miyares, issued a statement claiming the GOP nominee is “beholden to the values and polices” of former President Donald Trump. He linked the motivation for the “election integrity” rally to false claims about widespread voter fraud and the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“I am calling on Jason Miyares to step down from this event and denounce spreading dangerous conspiracy theories that led to the deadly insurrection on January 6th,” Herring said.
Winsome Sears, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, was also named as a featured guest for the rally’s closing banquet. But Sears, a former Virginia delegate, is expected to join Miyares at the campaign event for Pyon, a Republican House candidate looking to unseat Del. Dan Helmer (D-Fairfax) in November.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which first reported Miyares would not attend the rally, also reported Sears did not plan on attending. Sears and her campaign manager have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin agreed to make a stop at the dinner hosted by the local GOP committee, according to a person familiar with the decision. Youngkin’s campaign has not responded on whether his plans to attend are finalized.
Their Democratic rivals, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Del. Hala Ayala (Prince William), also released statements condemning the rally and urging Youngkin and Sears to not appear at the rally. Youngkin did push back against McAuliffe, calling him out for saying the 2001 presidential election was “stolen” in 2004 as the Democratic National Committee chairman.
“While McAuliffe is smearing my plan to strengthen the integrity of our elections by doing common sense things like requiring a photo ID to vote, he’s the only person in this race who has said a presidential election was stolen,” Youngkin said in a July 28 statement.
The issue of “election integrity” has gained more attention from Republicans since Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden in November. Legal efforts aimed at reversing the election results, which Democrats argue were used to attack the legitimacy of the outcome, have failed in court.
Candidates on the statewide GOP ticket have campaigned on the issue but have mainly focused on voting laws passed under Democrats in the General Assembly instead of the last presidential election.
Before the Miyares campaign confirmed he would not attend the rally Tuesday, Melvin Adams, the chairman of the 5th Congressional District Republican Committee, told 8News that two campaigns said their candidates would make an appearance and one could possibly send a campaign surrogate. Adams did not discuss specific details and when reached on the phone Wednesday said he was busy and would call back.
The two-day rally kicks off Aug. 6 with a banquet where Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) and Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) will speak.
Virginia Democrats have pressed the GOP committee to cancel the event, criticizing Adams for being outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection with his wife Sandy Adams, who serves as Rep. Good’s district director, and the congressman for backing efforts to decertify the presidential election results.
“One look at the other speakers should make it clear what this event is really about: It’s sponsored by the 5th Congressional District Republicans. Their chairman — and an event speaker — Melvin Adams – bragged about being outside the Capitol during the violent riot on January 6,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker said during a press call on July 27. “Bob Good is another featured speaker. He voted against certifying the election results and voted against awarding medals to the police officers that defended the Capitol during the insurrection.”