RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The three Republicans vying for statewide office in Virginia will be featured guests at the closing banquet of a two-day “election integrity” rally in Lynchburg, an event that has drawn fierce criticism from Democrats who say the rally promotes false conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
The two-day rally kicks off Aug. 6 with a banquet where two of Virginia’s Republican congressman, Reps. Ben Cline and Bob Good, are set to be featured speakers.
Virginia’s 5th Congressional District Republican Committee organized the rally, which will be held at Liberty University. Its chairman, Melvin Adams, has openly talked about being outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection with his wife Sandy Adams, who serves as Rep. Good’s district director.
In a press call Tuesday, Virginia Democrats expressed their outrage over the rally and GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin’s scheduled appearance.
“Make no mistake about it — voting rights and our very democracy are under attack across the country, and it’s because of Donald Trump and the extreme Republican politicians like Glenn who are helping him undermine America’s free and fair elections,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker said during the call.
Candidates on the GOP statewide ticket have focused on the issue throughout their campaigns, with each backing plans to restore Virginia’s rule requiring voters to show a photo ID and other changes to laws passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
Glenn Youngkin launched an election integrity task force in February before securing the Republican gubernatorial nomination, with his campaign saying he would “make election integrity a top priority.“
Winsome Sears, the GOP nominee in the lieutenant governor’s race, has called for stricter requirements to vote by mail and a monthly purge of voter rolls by the Virginia Department of Election, according to her campaign website. Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach), the Republican running for attorney general, supports “common sense election reform” but his campaign website only mentions the photo ID rule and cleaning voter rolls.
Their Democratic rivals called on them to not attend the banquet, linking the GOP candidates to former president Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 insurrection
“Glenn – enough is enough. I call on you to immediately withdraw from this ‘election integrity’ rally and disavow this dangerous, deadly conspiracy theory once and for all,” Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said in a statement.
Youngkin was not available for an interview Wednesday, according to a spokesperson, but his campaign said he would seek to revive the commonwealth’s photo ID law if elected.
“Terry McAuliffe opposes requiring a photo ID to vote, which undermines the integrity of our elections and makes it easier to cheat,” Youngkin spokesperson Matt Wolking said in a statement. “Glenn Youngkin will restore Virginia’s photo ID law and make sure it is easy for every eligible person to vote and harder to cheat.”
The GOP gubernatorial candidate did release a statement calling out McAuliffe for comments he made in 2004 as the Democratic National Committee chairman. “We actually won the last presidential election, folks. They stole the last presidential election,” McAuliffe said then.
“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 Wednesday. “He should immediately apologize for and disavow those comments he made.”
Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) said she’s “disappointed and disturbed” with Sears’s decision to attend the rally and “continuing to peddle such a dangerous myth” and Attorney General Mark Herring linked Miyares’s policies to former president Donald Trump.
“Jason Miyares is beholden to the values and policies of Donald Trump and spreading his ‘Big Lie’. 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 in a statement.
Sears and Miyares’s campaign did not respond to requests for interviews on Wednesday.
“Election integrity” has been a topic of discussion since Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden in November. Legal challenges of the election results, which Democrats argue were used to cast doubt in the outcome, failed in court.
In Virginia, a statewide audit found no mistake large enough to reverse the results. Christopher Piper, Virginia’s Department of Elections commissioner, referred to the 2020 presidential contest as the “most successful election in the history of Virginia” in March.