Youngkin in Chester, Va. Credit: Brandon Jarvis

by Brandon Jarvis

Republican candidates stopped in Chester Saturday to rally supporters ahead of a long summer on the campaign trail. They used this as an opportunity to rail against Democratic control and rally their supporters in what they hope will be a competitive race for the Executive Mansion.

“How many of yall are ready for a new governor,” Youngkin said to the crowd after taking the stage to ‘Start Me Up’ by The Rolling Stones. “Republicans have come together like never before to recognize that we absolutely must and will win this fall. Today is all about recognizing that yes we have work to do and we can do it.”

Lieutenant Governor candidate Winsome Sears talks to supporters in Chester, Va.

Youngkin was joined by Republican lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears and attorney general candidate Jason Miyares. 

Del. Carrie Coyner (HD-62) emceed the opening of the event and urged people to leave the shade on the borders of the field under a few trees and stand in the middle on the hot, cloudless day. She then introduced state Sen. Amanda Chase and former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox to address the crowd. 

Both Chase and Cox competed against Youngkin for the Republican nomination before losing at the convention in early May. Both spoke favorably of Youngkin at the event and urged everyone to rally around his campaign to take on Terry McAuliffe this November.

Chase and Cox waiting to speaking at the GOP rally in Chester, Va.

Cox talked to the crowd about how impressed he was by the political newcomer during the course of the campaign. ”He deserved to win because he’s got the energy and the passion to take back this state.” 

Youngkin touted the law enforcement support and crime statistics along with his opposition to Critical Race Theory as he has been doing recently in his campaign stump, but Saturday he leaned more into education policies that he would try to enact if elected. 

“Ladies and gentlemen I think the most important thing we’ll do for our schools after we ban Critical Race Theory will be to introduce school choice — charter schools, education savings accounts, this is how we will reform K-12 education,” Youngkin said to cheers from the crowd of Republican supporters. “I believe that we must in fact press forward with a real academic curriculum, yes, teaching history, the good and the bad, we press forward and teach our children accelerated math even before the 11th grade — we must press forward and reward advanced diplomas and we must prepare Virginia’s children to compete and excel.” 

Related: No, Virginia is not moving to eliminate advanced high school math classes

The theme that remained present the entire time was opposing eight years of Democratic governance, including the last two years that Democrats have had control of both chambers in the General Assembly. The Democrats made sweeping changes to state code during the last two years and Republicans are hoping that there will be a backlash in combination with those new laws and a Democratic White House helping them this November. 

“Terry is still peddling tired old policies of the past he has been carrying around in his briefcase for the last four years looking for a job,” Youngkins said Saturday. “His policies didn’t work as governor and they will not work again.”  

McAuliffe has often touted the policies that he passed as governor like restoring the rights to vote for over 170,000 people with felonies, but he has also rolled out several new policy plans while Youngkin hasn’t announced any specific plan other than an election integrity task force. He received cheers from the crowd Saturday when he said that he would require every voter to show photo identification before they are allowed to vote. 

While Youngkin’s specific policy plans remain minimal, his messaging is more generalized towards an ambitious goal of a better future in a Virginia that he believes the Democrats have ruined. “We have a vision for Virginia where our communities are so safe that no parent worries about their child going outside to play and every one of our parents and grandparents goes for a walk in the evening and the only thing on their mind is what a great day it was,” Youngkin said. “The consequences for Virginia these last eight years has been crushing.”

Related: Defying early expectations, Virginia is coming out of the pandemic flush with cash

The only public poll released shows McAuliffe with a four-point lead in the race. Joe Biden won the state by ten points, but Virginia has historically voted against the party in control of the White House. This has many insiders from both parties believing that this race will be much more competitive for the Republicans that lost by 9 points in 2017. 

Youngkin is hoping that his candidacy in this race will help Republicans build momentum across the country. “We are going to send a shockwave across this country that says no Democratic seat in this country is safe. Not a single one.”

In-person early voting for Virginia elections begins Sept. 16.

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