Which Republicans are leading in the Va. race for governor? It’s hard to say

Virginia Republicans will choose a candidate for governor at their statewide convention Saturday, and a few of the candidates are standing out due to name recognition and the amount of money they have been spending.

“Conventions are usually something on which people don’t spend a lot of money,” said Bob Holsworth, a Virginia political analyst based in Richmond.

But candidates Glenn Youngkin and Pete Snyder have each spent about $7 million on mailings and television ads ahead of the convention.

“Youngkin and Snyder have done something we’ve never seen in a convention before,” Holsworth said, noting that it’s highly unusual to pay for widespread exposure when only certified delegates are allowed to participate.

“It’s almost unheard of to think of candidates running television ads across the state when maybe this convention might have 40,000 or 45,000 voters,” said Holsworth.

But according to Holsworth, the money and the exposure have likely turned Youngkin and Snyder into frontrunners, along with Kirk Cox, the well-known former state House speaker who benefits from name recognition.

Seven Republicans are running for governor, and it is difficult to gauge exactly who is ahead, largely due to the complicated voting system that Republicans have chosen for the convention.

The party will be using ranked choice voting, in which delegates will list candidates in order of preference; at each step, if no candidate receives an outright majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and that candidate’s votes are reallocated to whomever those voters listed as their second preference.

Last week, Cox put out an online ad explicitly asking delegates to name him as their No. 2.

“I understand I might not be everyone’s first choice,” Cox says in the ad. “But if I’m not your first choice, I’d really appreciate you putting me down as your second.”

Holsworth said he believes the counting process will take two or possibly even three days to complete.

Most of the ballots will be cast in drive-through fashion, according to state GOP chairman Richard Anderson.

Decentralized voting will allow for a lot more delegates, Anderson said — 53,324 delegates have been certified, whereas a normal in-person convention would have 8,000 to 10,000.

Virginia Democratic candidates for governor are running in a traditional primary election, which is set for June 8.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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