- 7 Republicans are running in the Virginia gubernatorial primary.
- Several candidates are touting their MAGA bona fides. A nominating convention is set for May 8.
- Governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general candidates face ranked-choice voting.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The Virginia governor's race boasts a dozen challengers vying to replace term-limited Democrat Ralph Northam.
Five Democrats, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, will seek to top the field in a statewide primary on June 8.
Republicans must first do some paring down of their own, choosing delegates who will slot their preferred candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general via ranked-choice voting. This remote convention, which one Trump admirer insists is designed to shut her out, is scheduled for May 8.
Republicans haven’t occupied the governor’s mansion in more than a decade. Former President Donald Trump lost the Old Dominion by five points in the 2016 election. That gap doubled in his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.
State Sen. Amanda Chase
Background: This two-term Virginia senator, who’s been dubbed “Trump in heels,” is the current front-runner on the GOP side. The conservative lawmaker is currently at war with colleagues who censured her for participating in the Trump-led, election results-denying rally on January 6 in Washington, DC that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol.
She’s also accused GOP leaders of undercutting her campaign via a “rigged” convention process. Chase maintains that detractors “terrified of the amount of support that I have across the state” are trying to dilute her chances of winning by adopting the confusing, labor-intensive delegate-based effort rather than allowing a traditional primary.
“The establishment Republican elite … wants a lukewarm candidate that’s sold out to Richmond. And I’m not that person. I’m like Trump,” Chase told Insider in an interview, billing herself as an outsider determined to “hold the pay-to-play system accountable.”
Agenda: Her top three priorities include rescinding all the COVID-19 restrictions in the state — “Just like Florida. We’re gonna completely reopen Virginia,” she said — undoing, via executive order, the gun-related universal background checks and red flag law that took effect in 2020, and barring social media companies from “restricting people’s First Amendment rights and cancelling them if it doesn’t meet their agenda.”
A companion piece to the tech fight will be boosting internet upload and download speeds to underserved communities via “safe technology” like broadband. “I’m not for 5G,” she stressed.
Pocketbook: FEC records show Chase contributed approximately $2,400 to Dave Brat, the two-term Tea Party favorite who knocked off then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 GOP primary, and the Republican Party of Virginia since 2016.
Fans: Former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn has endorsed Chase — which could prove useful down the road.
“I think having this endorsement from Gen. Michael Flynn is a good first step,” she said of possibly getting the nod from Mar-a-Lago. Trump pardoned Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, after losing the 2020 election.
Chase said she hasn’t asked Trump, or any politicos, to rally to her side.
“If people want to endorse me, that’s great,” she said. “Right now my focus is getting delegates to this convention.”
Col. Sergio de la Peña
Background: This Mexican native and Army veteran campaigned for Trump in 2016. In May 2017, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis announced there’d be changes at the Pentagon — appointments that included newly minted Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs de la Peña, The Hill reported.
Agenda: His top three priorities, according to campaign staff, include restoring election integrity, repealing Northam’s quarantine-related restrictions on Virginia schools and business, and restoring Second Amendment rights in the Commonwealth.
Pocketbook: FEC records show de la Peña contributed approximately $270 to Rep. Bob Good of Virginia in 2020.
Fans: Campaign staff confirmed that de la Peña is seeking Trump’s blessing. “He’s been working through channels to get it,” a campaign aide told Insider of the endorsement hunt.
Background: A Virginia native who spent 30 years in the private sector, Youngking told the hosts of the right-leaning “Ruthless” podcast he got into the governor’s race to bring a “common sense perspective” to the field.
“You cannot be a business person and actually believe that government-run anything is a good idea,” he said on the show.
Agenda: Youngkin’s top three priorities, according to campaign staff, include reopening and rebuilding a “rip-roaring” local economy (think: lower taxes, deregulation), protecting Second Amendment rights, and instituting a five-point plan to address election integrity issues.
Pocketbook: FEC records show Youngkin has contributed over $1 million to myriad GOP causes over the past two decades. That support has propped up the former president’s facilitators (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California; Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas) as well as Trump critics (Late Sen. John McCain; Sen. Mitt Romney; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas).
Fans: A Youngkin campaign ad features a clip from a White House event at which Trump name-checks Yougkin — though a disclaimer at the bottom reads “does not imply endorsement.”
“He welcomes the support of anyone who supports his vision of making Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” spokesperson Macaulay Porter said.
Background: During the pandemic, this serial entrepreneur, unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2013, and grilling enthusiast launched the nonprofit Virginia 30 Day Fund, a relief group providing forgivable loans to cash-strapped small business owners.
Agenda: “Pete’s focus on the campaign trail — and as Virginia’s next governor — is to open our schools, support small businesses, and restore the rights of law-abiding citizens,” campaign spokesperson Lenze Morris told Insider. “The career politicians in Virginia have failed our Commonwealth, and Pete is the one candidate in this race who can disrupt the status quo and get Virginia leading again.”
Pocketbook: FEC reports show Snyder has contributed approximately $113,000 over the past decade to a slew of Republican candidates including Trump, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sen. Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, former Virginia Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Barbara Comstock, and Denver Riggleman, as well as party offices ranging from the Republican National Committee to the City of Fairfax Republican Committee.
Fans: Trump appointees who served in various “acting” capacities throughout the federal government, including former Department of Homeland Security designee Ken Cucinelli, former Customs and Border Protection designee Mark Morgan, and former Immigration and Customs Enforcement designee Tony Pham, have endorsed Snyder.
State Del. Kirk Cox
Background: This one-time high school teacher has now served in the Virginia legislature for three decades, He’s climbed the ranks of GOP leadership since 2004, graduating from House majority whip to majority leader and, most recently, House speaker.
Agenda: The top priorities posted on his campaign website include ending one-party control in Richmond — “so Virginians can once again feel like their government represents them and not the liberal special interests,” Cox wrote — combating cancel culture, and bolstering law enforcement.
Pocketbook: FEC reports show that Cox has contributed approximately $1,300 to former Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia and the Republican Party of Virginia within the past decade.
Fans: Former Virginia Govs. George Allen and Bob McDonnell, both Republicans, have endorsed Cox.
Background: Doran is a former CEO of the nonprofit Center for European Policy Analysis. He’s also served as chairman of GOP recruiting effort Let’s Win, Virginia. This race is the Arizona native’s first bid for higher office.
Agenda: The top priorities posted on his campaign website include improving public schools, controlling crime, and spurring job creation statewide.
Pocketbook: FEC reports show that Doran contributed $250 to Daniel Gade, the GOP challenger who tried to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2020.
Fans: Doran did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment about seeking political endorsements.
Background: A former teacher’s aide who migrated to law enforcement, Johnson was a two-term sheriff of Roanoke City and the first Black woman elected to the post. She ran for the House of Delegates in a 2014 special election, and lost.
Agenda: The top priorities posted on her campaign website include creating jobs, “building strong schools,” and protecting the community. “As your Governor I will put the best interest of the citizens of Virginia ahead of politics, political parties or self-interest,” she pledged online.
Pocketbook: FEC reports show that Johnson contributed approximately $500 to former Rep. Goodlatte and the Republican Party of Virginia since 2007.
Fans: Johnson did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment about seeking political endorsements.
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