Virginia Gov. Youngkin’s PAC looks to general election with unified GOP

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seen in October 2022.(TNS/Virginian Pilot)

All 10 candidates backed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin dominated their primary races last night in the Virginia primary election, showing what the Republican party hopes will be a unified GOP front as the commonwealth heads toward the closely-watched state contests in November.

Some of the seats where Youngkin’s endorsement weighed most heavily will be crucial to determining which party will control the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. Both parties nationally look toward Virginia’s off-year elections as a bellwether for the next year’s elections, with Youngkin’s victory in 2021 in a state President Biden won by 10 points indicating Democrats were in danger of losing control of the U.S. House.

Republicans in Virginia have not controlled the governor’s mansion and Virginia General Assembly since 2001. In 2019, Democrats took full control of the governor’s mansion and the General Assembly, a huge shift for a state that had once been reliably red.

Youngkin’s victory in 2021 has indicated to Republicans that the way back to full control may be to run moderate candidates. On Tuesday, Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase, who was censured by the state party in 2021 for a “pattern of unacceptable conduct,” including voicing support for Jan. 6 rioters, was defeated by former state Sen. Glen Sturtevant. Youngkin did not endorse in the race, and on Tuesday night after his victory, Sturtevant emphasized that “it’s going to take all of us as Republicans working together” to take control of the statehouses, according to CBS Richmond affiliate WTVR.

In a memo exclusively shown to CBS News, Spirit of Virginia – Youngkin’s political action committee – cited redistricting lines and an open seat environment as the basis for the governor’s “unprecedented opportunity to impact races across the state.”

“The fact is, an open seat environment, with a well-liked Governor who is directly working these races, while advancing a popular agenda that moves Virginia forward – is cause for optimism as we look to hold the majority in the House and flip the Senate,” the memo said.

The post-primary memo will be shared with donors and stakeholders.

Virginia Gov. Youngkin Speaks At Grand Opening Of Amazon HQ2 In Arlington
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin waves as he tours Amazon HQ2 during their grand opening ceremony on June 15, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

“The results of Tuesday’s primaries in Virginia are just the latest sign of momentum for Governor Youngkin and Republicans heading into the fall’s pivotal General Assembly races,” said David Rexrode, Spirit of Virginia’s chairman, in a statement.

Rexrode pointed to a “strong, dynamic slate of Republican candidates” and a unified party as decisive factors for the upcoming midterm elections.

A senior adviser to the PAC told CBS News that in the primary cycle, the Spirit of Virginia PAC invested six figures in a data remodeling program and hired Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s absentee and early voting director to grow the voter base.” The adviser said the PAC had raised $2.7 million in the first three months of 2023, which it said was a record.

“We will target voters who do not typically vote in off-year elections, compete for swing voters, expand upon the historic Youngkin coalition of 2021, and grow our Republican base,” the memo said.

Abortion rights in Virginia

Despite the wins by Youngkin-backed candidates, his agenda may still be on the line in November as abortion remained on the ballot for Virginia voters.

Incumbent state Sen. Joe Morrissey, a pro-life Democrat who is also twice-disbarred attorney who once won reelection to the House of Delegates while serving a jail term, lost his primary to former Delegate Lashrecse Aird in the suburban Richmond district. Aird heavily campaigned on abortion rights and pointed to Morrissey’s previous comments that he would be open to considering some abortion restrictions.

Youngkin had pushed for a 15-week abortion ban with some exceptions but was defeated in the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate.

2024 Ambitions 

Questions around Youngkin’s ambition for higher office, including a potential run for president in 2024, persist with this decisive victory for his agenda in Virginia.

Youngkin recently told The Wall Street Journal editor-at-large Gerard Baker that he would not be returning to the campaign trail later this year during an interview at the Milken Institute, citing his focus on the Virginia House and Senate races.

“I haven’t written a book; I’m not in Iowa,” the governor said. “I’m spending time representing Virginia this year.”

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