by Brandon Jarvis

In what might be their best opportunity in a decade to win statewide in Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidates are facing anonymous attacks which could potentially deepen the divide and make it harder for the party to unite behind one candidate in November. 

Former state House Speaker Kirk Cox is facing pushback from a new PAC named First Principles Fund. In a video on the PAC’s website, they attack Cox for having over 30 years of experience in the state legislature and his role in helping with Medicaid expansion. The video fails to note that the federal government pays for 90% of the funding for the expansion in Medicaid that provided healthcare to more than 450,000 Virginians. 

“Kirk’s opponents are daunted by his history of winning under the toughest circumstances,” said Elizabeth Gregory, spokesperson for the Cox campaign. “Unfortunately for them, frivolous attacks like these won’t land when held up against his proven conservative record.”

Glenn Youngkin is also facing anonymous attacks from The Cornerstone PAC, which has done nothing but attack him. One of the attack ads accused Youngkin of outsourcing American jobs to China and tries to use details out of context to paint the gubernatorial candidate as being soft on China. Cornerstone is run on paper by a Republican operative named Chris Jankowski. He has not responded to requests for comment, nor has he indicated that he is doing this in favor of any of the other candidates. 

The Youngkin campaign has accused Pete Snyder of being behind the attacks. “Everyone knows that Pete Snyder is behind the groups spreading these lies,” said Youngkin’s spokesperson, Macaulay Porter. “Glenn knows how to beat the Chinese because he has done it in his business career. President Trump thanked Glenn for helping him get a better trade deal for American workers. Now Glenn is running for governor to do the same for Virginia. He can’t wait to put his expertise and experience to work for our Commonwealth.” 

RelatedStanding Up To China – Glenn Youngkin for Virginia Governor

Youngkin directly called out Snyder for the attacks at a gubernatorial forum recently. “These are lies, and the person behind them should be ashamed,” Youngkin said during the forum. “And we all know who it is, Pete.”  Snyder then took the microphone and said: “If I ever hit you, you will know,” before sitting back down. 

Snyder fell victim to a mass text campaign on Wednesday where Republicans across Virginia received a text message with a video of Snyder in 2015 referring to Donald Trump as a ‘racist jerk.” The video is posted under what appears to be a brand new account on Youtube with the random name, Darrell Michaels. There is no clue as to who is behind the text campaign or posting the video. “You can be upset and angry about the lack of enforcement on our borders without sounding like a racist jerk,” Snyder said in the video pulled from a 2015 Fox Business interview. “Our Republican Party doesn’t stand for the things that Donald Trump said as it relates to Mexicans and Mexican Americans.” 

Snyder has been an adamant supporter of Trump while campaigning for governor, however.

“It’s no surprise that the teachers unions are attacking Pete,” said Lenze Morris, a spokesperson for Snyder. “Democrats ‘fear’ his candidacy and know he is the only one in this race that can defeat Terry McAuliffe in November.”

Republican operatives across the Commonwealth are afraid of the impact of these negative ad campaigns being pushed anonymously. “I think it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The moment the delegate list is finalized, you’re going to see anonymous attacks flying every day at every candidate,” one operative said on the condition of anonymity. 

“Virginia Republicans are in big trouble if they can’t get their act together. A complete failure planning the convention, Republicans, as usual, are eating their own and the Democrats are laughing on the sidelines,” another operative said, also under the condition of anonymity. “If Republicans don’t stop talking about guns, god, and the Bible and start talking about pocketbook issues, we will lose and Democrats will solidify Virginia as a blue state for the next 20 years.”

Richard Meagher, associate professor of political science at Randolph Macon College says that while the general election is still several months away, right now it is hard to see unity happening in the Republican Party. “November is still a long way away and anything could happen, but it is hard to see a path from their current fighting to a party unified behind a single candidate this fall,” Meagher said. “If there’s ever a time to have your act together and present a unified front, it would be now. Instead, they’re falling apart.”

President Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points in 2021 and Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009. But Virginia, with the exception of Terry McAuliffe in 2013, has historically elected governors that are opposite of the party occupying the White House at the time. But with Virginia’s steady shift to the left in recent years and the current fracture among the Republican party over the nomination process, it is hard to imagine the party uniting between May and November. Especially if the anonymous attacks continue. 

Republicans are scheduled to hold a convention on May 8 to choose their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The details of the convention are still being worked out, but all of the candidates coming together to support the nominee will be necessary for the Republicans to have a chance in November. “If the anonymous attacks get too outlandish and personal then you might see a candidate or two refuse to help the nominee and that can potentially hurt,” said one operative. 

But cautious optimism within the party is still not lacking, yet. “I think Republicans are already united; the problem is going to be whether or not the infighting peels us apart,” said Shaun Kenney, former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. “Democrats need to be careful on this. Despite what one might see inside the party, the base knows McAuliffe and will do everything they can to set aside differences and push for the eventual nominee. Virginia is the same state that voted Obama in 2008 only to elect McDonnell with 59% of the vote.”

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