Glenn Youngkin, a wealthy first-time candidate who walked a line between his party’s Trump-centric base and appeals to business interests, declared victory in the Republican nominating contest for governor of Virginia on Monday. He heads into a general election in one of only two states choosing their governors in 2021, in the latest running of an off-year race often viewed as a referendum on the party holding the White House.
The Republican Party of Virginia had yet to announce a winner, but Mr. Youngkin’s last remaining rival, Pete Snyder, conceded the race. “I send my heartfelt congratulations,” Mr. Snyder wrote on Twitter. “He + the ticket have my 100% support.”
The results were being tabulated by Republican officials two days after roughly 30,000 voters cast ranked-choice ballots at 39 locations around the state. Mr. Snyder conceded after more than 12 hours of vote counting, in which five candidates were knocked from contention, one by one, and their supporters’ next-choice votes were allocated to others still in the running. In the sixth round of counting, Mr. Youngkin passed the required 50 percent threshold.
“Virginians have made it clear that they are ready for a political outsider with proven business experience to bring real change in Richmond,” he said on Twitter.
The unusual nominating process came after an internal party squabble in which Republicans rejected holding a primary, which would have drawn a larger and more diverse group of voters. Former Republican officials from an era before the party fell hard from power in Virginia criticized the nominating process as likely to increase the G.O.P.’s marginalization.
But neither of the two candidates who most closely aligned themselves with former President Donald J. Trump — who did not endorse anyone — prevailed, raising Republican hopes for the November election.
Mr. Youngkin, who is likely to run as an outsider businessman, fueled by a large fortune from private equity, will face the winner of the Democratic primary next month. In that race, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe has held a significant lead in fund-raising as well as in recent polls over four rivals.
Mr. Youngkin said at a recent G.O.P. candidates’ forum that “the last eight years have been crushing” for Virginians, and he warned that if Mr. McAuliffe were given another term, Democrats would end the state’s right-to-work law that prohibits compulsory union membership. If that happens, “we can kiss our business environment away,” he said.
Mr. McAuliffe governed as a pro-business Democrat in his four years in office, and he began his campaign for a second term in December on a pro-education note, pledging to raise teacher pay and offer universal pre-K. (Virginia governors cannot serve two consecutive terms.) Mr. Youngkin said last month it was “a sad thing” that Medicaid was expanded in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act, one of the signature achievements of the current Democratic governor, Ralph Northam. He acknowledged the clock couldn’t be turned back.
In a statement, Mr. McAuliffe compared Mr. Youngkin to other Republicans who “fawn all over Donald Trump” and “fully embrace his extreme, right-wing agenda,” adding, “Now, Glenn Youngkin has paid enough to purchase the Republican gubernatorial nomination so he can run Donald Trump’s dangerous playbook here in Virginia.”
Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009, a reflection of the state’s changing demographics as well as the party’s tendency in recent years to nominate candidates who fanned divisive social issues, rather than appealed to suburban voters on kitchen-table priorities.
The thumping that Mr. Northam administered to his Republican rival in 2017 was both a rejection of Mr. Trump and a catalyst in further pushing Virginia, a once-purple state, out of the Republican orbit. Mr. Trump lost Virginia by 10 percentage points in November.
Still, Republicans believe they have a better chance of winning statewide this year than at any time in the last decade, after Democrats, who took full control in Richmond in 2020, passed sweeping liberal legislation on gun restrictions, raising the minimum wage and other issues.
Mr. Youngkin, 54, was raised in Virginia Beach and has lived in Northern Virginia for 25 years. Besides defeating Mr. Snyder, a technology entrepreneur, he also outlasted State Senator Amanda Chase, who was censured in a bipartisan vote of the state’s General Assembly for calling the rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 “patriots.”
Supporters of Ms. Chase accused Snyder partisans in the state party of rejecting a primary and engineering Saturday’s “disassembled convention” to hurt her chances. Ms. Chase had said that if he became the nominee, she would run as an independent. There is no indication she intends to do that with Mr. Youngkin heading the party’s ticket, which will also include nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Many G.O.P. insiders heaved a sigh of relief that the nomination for governor was not won by Ms. Chase, believing that her general-election candidacy would have been likely to go down in flames given how deeply unpopular Mr. Trump is in Virginia.
Mr. Youngkin’s appeal to Republicans was at least twofold: He is a political blank slate, with no record in elected office for Democrats to attack. And his private wealth — reportedly more than $200 million after he retired as co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group — will allow him to compete financially against Mr. McAuliffe, a prolific fund-raiser. Mr. McAuliffe raised $36 million for his 2013 election and over $9.9 million during the past two years, according to the Virginia Access Project. Mr. Youngkin has already spent $5.5 million of his own money since entering the race in late January.
At the recent candidates’ forum, Mr. Youngkin aligned himself with Mr. Trump’s lies about a rigged 2020 election, declaring “voter integrity” a top issue and referring to Dominion voting machines — the subject of conspiracy theories on the far right — as “the most important issue” of the campaign.
He pledged to restore a state voter identification law, to replace the entire state board of education and to institute the “1776 Project,” a curriculum of “patriotic education” proposed by a commission established under Mr. Trump that has been derided by mainstream historians.
Although Mr. Youngkin is expected to pivot to reach independent voters, Democrats are sure to remind them in the fall of his most Trumpy declarations from the nominating race, and that he campaigned this month with one of his endorsers, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a bête noire of the left.
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