VA-Gov, VA-LG, VA-AG: Virginia Republicans will hold their convention Saturday to pick their nominees for this fall’s contests for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, but we won’t know the identity of the winners until sometime next week. Old Dominion Democrats will be choosing their nominees a month later through a traditional party primary as they try and defend this trio of offices.
GOP chair Rich Anderson said that tabulations, which will be live-streamed, won’t start until Sunday afternoon and that, while he hopes to have the governor race resolved by Tuesday, “That’s obviously just my hope.” (The Richmond ballroom where the hand-count will take place is reserved through Thursday.) Anderson also said that race for attorney general will be counted first followed by lieutenant governor and finally governor, but he added, “This is politics, so don’t be surprised if that changes.”
Team Red’s “unassembled convention” will feature 39 drive-through voting sites for the 53,000 delegates; by contrast, more than 365,000 voters participated in the 2017 Republican primary. Delegates will be presented with a ranked-choice ballot, and the results will be weighted based on how well Republicans did in past elections in each attendees’ home locality.
The four major contenders for governor are Del. Kirk Cox, who served as state House speaker before the GOP lost its majority in the 2019 elections; state Sen. Amanda Chase; and a pair of wealthy businessmen, Glenn Youngkin and Pete Snyder. The field also includes former Roanoke City Sheriff Octavia Johnson, businessman Peter Doran, and former Defense Department official Sergio de la Peña, but they haven’t attracted much attention.
Conventions usually involve candidates personally reaching out to delegates rather than running TV commercials, but the deep-pocketed Youngkin and Snyder are each pouring their resources into advertising as well. The Republican firm Medium Buying said Monday that Youngkin had spent $2.2 million for TV and radio spots compared to $1.86 million for Snyder; it did not mention any similar spending from the other contenders.
Cox, though, has been running digital ads where he’s tried to take advantage of the instant-runoff system. The former speaker, who has largely avoided criticizing any of his rivals, has implored delegates to consider him as a second-choice option.
Chase, a self-described "Trump in heels" who has long had an awful relationship with her party's leaders, has adopted far more belligerent tactics. She has continued to insist that Snyder is trying to win the convention through unfair means, and she said in March that she’d run as an independent if he’s the GOP nominee.
Chase also earned plenty of attention in the final days of the race when one of her aides displayed an AR-15 at another driver. Chase, who was in the vehicle participating in a virtual candidate event at the time, told the audience at the time, “Speaking of a Second Amendment moment, we just had to—oh, my goodness—we are exercising our Second Amendment rights right now [in] our car, where we had somebody road rage, trying to get in front of—get on us.” The state senator heavily promoted the story afterwards.
The Republican competition for lieutenant governor is a six-way fight between Del. Glenn Davis; former Dels. Tim Hugo and Winsome Sears; and businessmen Puneet Ahluwalia, Lance Allen, and Maeve Rigler. This was a very low-key contest until late April, when Hugo sent out a mailer featuring a photo of Davis wearing a rainbow-themed shirt at an LGBTQ event.
An anonymous text also was sent to convention delegates around the same time claiming Davis was “a gay Democrat” while Hugo was “the only conservative running for Lt Governor.” Hugo’s campaign denounced the text, which they also said they had nothing to do with.
Finally, the contest for attorney general is a four-person race between Chesterfield County Supervisor Leslie Haley; Del. Jason Miyares; 2017 candidate Chuck Smith; and attorney Jack White. This is the only statewide office where a Democratic incumbent is also seeking re-election, though Attorney General Mark Herring faces a competitive primary challenge on June 8 from Del. Jay Jones.