Virginia’s Democrats know a bad thing happened to them on May 8. They know more than 53,000 Republicans signed up for the unassembled convention to select candidates for statewide office when only 5,000 were expected.
They know that Republicans will have the more diverse ticket, Republicans who have the resources and momentum and Republicans who have on their side what are shaping up as the issues in this campaign.
They know Republicans selected a transformational ticket, led by businessman Glenn Youngkin, who lives in Great Falls but grew up in Virginia Beach, giving him links to two of the state’s most voter-rich areas; lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears, a Black woman, born in Jamaica, who represented a Norfolk district in the House of Delegates but now lives in Winchester; and, for attorney general, Jason Miyares, a member of the House of Delegates and former prosecutor whose parents escaped from Cuba.
They know Republicans are fired up about this ticket. Pete Snyder, whom I had endorsed for governor, immediately congratulated Youngkin, heartily endorsed the entire Republican ticket and already has donated to all three statewide candidates. That’s how you do it with class.
And they know they are in for a fight. Dave Wasserman of Cook Political report says “Youngkin is still the underdog, but he has a real chance.” Robert McCartney of the far-left Washington Post says Youngkin has “a surprisingly good chance” to become the first Republican to win a statewide race in Virginia in 12 years.
Democrats are trying to tie the ticket to President Donald Trump, and the key for Republicans seems to be to “accept the embrace” of the former president – who already has given Youngkin his “complete and total endorsement” – and keep swing voters on board.
It’s not certain how far the Democrats will get with all this. Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin’s likely opponent for governor, is a longtime bagman for the Clintons whose campaign already has been accused of receiving donations of questionable legality. Any attempt to tie Youngkin to Trump should be responded to by tying McAuliffe to Joe Biden, whose economic, immigration, law enforcement and energy policies have begun to seriously hit Virginians in the pocket book.
The Democrats’ likely attorney general candidate, Mark Herring, has admitted to wearing blackface to parties. His opponent is the first Cuban-American elected to the Virginia General Assembly and led the effort to create Virginia’s Commission on Economic Opportunity for Virginians and Aspiring and Diverse Communities.
And then there’s the lieutenant governor’s race. None of the Democrat candidates are well known, and they will find themselves opposed by Winsome Sears, a formidable former Marine who ran homeless shelters before she got into politics.
Sears was born in Jamaica but grew up in New York City. She became an electrician in the Marines, then got out, earned degrees from Old Dominion and Regent University, then opened her own electrician business before taking over homeless shelters in the beach area. In 2018, she offered herself as a write-in alternative to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart after Stewart appeared in photos with a Confederate flag.
Sears, the first, and still only, black Republican woman ever elected to the General Assembly, made news recently by appearing in a photo with an AR-15 and has worked to promote gun ownership among Black Virginians. She believes babies are created by God and has called the abortion-until-birth-and-possibly-beyond legislation supported by Democrats, including Gov. Ralph Northam, as “wicked.”
She believes that education funding should follow the child, that voters should be required to show ID and that Democrat politicians in power now have held back Virginia with their continued Covid restrictions.
After the last session of the General Assembly, Republicans can make the case Democrats have moved substantially to the left of the electorate. They reduced penalties for serious crimes, moved to make elections less secure, made it harder to keep criminals in jail and for police to do their jobs and further restricted gun rights.
Republicans also will be ready for the fight. Youngkin, who is worth more than $250 million, had more than 150 paid staff before the convention and can afford to add more. Given his likely opponent lives in the same wealthy area and that Virginians tend not to hold wealth against candidates – see Mark Warner – it is unlikely they will be able to paint him as an aloof rich guy.
Sears and Minayes are top-notch candidates in winnable elections with sizable momentum behind them. Moreover, they are the new face of the Republican Party – diverse and not wedded to old politics, interested in protecting our rights, securing our elections and providing opportunities for all.
That’s why the Democrats are scared. And they should be.