Among the crowded field of gubernatorial candidates for Governor of Virginia is Sergio de la Peña, who calls himself the “conservative colonel.” De la Peña, who has served in the Army, was an early supporter of Donald Trump, back when he was merely a candidate. He was part of the Trump transition team for the Department of Defense before serving as the Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs. De la Peña was born in Mexico and legally immigrated to the United States as a child. It’s because of his inspiring story of the American dream, as well as such accomplishments in leadership, de la Peña is confident he has what it takes to win.
Voters will be hard-pressed to find a candidate in the race more loyal to the former president. “I supported President Trump when other Republicans were sitting on the sidelines and not supporting him. I was out there carrying his cause and carrying his message and attracting more Hispanic voters,” de la Peña shared with Townhall. He also offered “I had a good deal to do with it” when it came to the increased Hispanic support for Trump compared to nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Not only did de la Peña support Trump from the start nationally, he did so abroad as well. De la Pena shared how he traveled to Mexico to speak with a select group of members of the Mexican Congress to speak in favor of Trump.
De la Peña, who with his family lived in Venezuela in the late 90’s, also addressed concerns of socialism, which he spoke of in the context of a “desire by the government to control more and more of our daily lives.” When it comes to Virginia where he is running, de la Peña detailed how “our commonwealth government with the governor and general assembly are doing similar things,” in that “they want to weaken the 2nd amendment, they want to impose on our first amendment, they now have put in place the equivalent of the Green New Deal to make us significantly more dependent.”
During the Trump administration, they had the best alignment of Western Hemisphere nations. Biden is taking a different approach, however, to put it lightly. “They’re being a little bit schizophrenic,” de la Peña said about Southern Border Coordinator Roberta Jacobson’s comments about the border. “Make up your mind, is the border open or closed,” de la Peña added.
As a legal immigrant from Mexico, de la Peña frequently speaks out on the concerns of illegal immigration. The gubernatorial candidate frequently describes how he was born in Mexico, where he lived in a home with dirt floors and without running water. He didn’t learn English until he had already arrived in the United States and through hard work rose through the ranks of various jobs and ultimately the Army.
De la Peña, who is not a politician, emphasizes the leadership skills he has, which he learned in previous jobs, and which were especially critical in the Army. If elected, de la Peña is confident he’ll put those lessons to good use as governor. Drawing a likeness to Trump, de la Peña said that “What [Trump] said is what he did. He did not confuse efforts with results. Nor do I. He was about getting things achieved,” which he then brought back to the role he hopes to be elected to. “That’s the wonderful thing about governor, you’re the executive, you’re getting things done.”
Put another way, in drawing back to a previous job, de la Peña pointed out that “when you work at a welding shop, people don’t pay you for good intentions.”
De la Peña is clear-headed on what his duty would be as the governor. “You analyze all the facts, how much control and power you have to be able to enact change… if you only control the governorship, you still have to deal with the general assembly.” This is another example of how he’d put his leadership skills from the Army and Trump administration to good use.
Executive orders also came up, which de la Peña believes “should not be the way that we rule,” but rather “the exception to the rule.” Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has signed a record number of Executive Orders during his short time in office thus far.
A Republican nominee may have a hard road ahead of him or herself. The last Republican governor of Virginia was Bob McDonnell, who served from 2010-2014. Former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who narrowly defeated Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 gubernatorial election, is considered the frontrunner for the 2021 gubernatorial election.
Bold a claim though it may be, de la Peña believes he is the Republican candidate who can win Northern Virginia, and it’s a point he’s emphasized in all facets of his campaign. “I can win in Northern Virginia,” de la Peña assured Townhall. “In one generation I went from being a cotton picker to working in a lumber yard... and all ranks of a soldier up to Colonel and a federal employee at a senior most level at the Pentagon. I am them.”
The Republican nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general will be chosen on May 8, in a convention with yet-to-be-finalized plans.
Editor's Note: This author is close friends with a member of the de la Peña family.
Update: According to reporting from Richmond-Times Dispatch: "The compromise agreed to by factions on the party’s State Central Committee would allow the party to nominate its candidates on May 8 by allowing convention delegates to vote at about 37 sites spread out across the state."