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Virginia Republicans nominate Glenn Youngkin for governor

The former Carlyle Group CEO came out on top of the Trump-friendly GOP field after a controversial nominating process.
Glenn Youngkin makes his closing remarks during a GOP gubernatorial candidate forum in Lynchburg, Va., on April 19, 2021.
Glenn Youngkin makes his closing remarks at a GOP gubernatorial candidates' forum in Lynchburg, Va., on April 19.Kendall Warner / The News and Advance via AP

Virginia Republicans selected former private equity executive Glenn Youngkin as their nominee in this year's governor's election, in which he will face whomever Democrats nominate in their own primary next month.

Youngkin got 55 percent of the vote over fellow businessman Pete Snyder, who got 45 percent and conceded before the final tally was announced after a full day of ballot counting.

"While certainly would have preferred a W, I send my heartfelt congratulations to @glennyoungkin on a tremendous race + deserved win. He + the ticket have my 100% support. Grateful to @Bursonsnyder + entire team. Love you all + our big family that is the VA GOP. #openourschools," Snyder said in a tweet conceding the race.

Seven candidates competed in an unusual and controversial "unassembled convention" Saturday, when 28,000 Republican voters and activists cast weighted and ranked-choice ballots at dozens of locations across the state after the party opted against a standard primary.

Youngkin, 54, retired as co-CEO of the private equity giant Carlyle Group last year and turned his focus to politics. His wealth helped seed his bid for the GOP nomination. He lent himself $5.5 million in the first quarter of 2021, according to the most recently available campaign finance disclosures.

Virginia's off-year governor's election, which always takes place the year after a presidential election, is often read as a bellwether of the national mood a year into a new presidential term.

Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and every state office, including the governorship, but the state constitution prohibits governors from seeking second consecutive terms. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the favorite in the party's primary June 8.

Among Republicans, all leading candidates aligned themselves with former President Donald Trump, including Youngkin and Snyder — a longtime Republican donor who chaired Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign in Virginia — even though both have backgrounds in the more establishment-friendly country club wing of the GOP.

In some ways, Youngkin's play for Trump supporters was tame compared to those of some rivals. State Sen. Amanda Chase, for example, was censured by her colleagues for her incendiary rhetoric and forced to sit in a plexiglass box because she refused to wear a mask under pandemic protocols — all while embracing the "Trump in heels" label affixed to her.

Youngkin found more substantive ways to tie himself to Trump. A TV ad featured video of Trump singling out Youngkin by name for credit in a trade deal with China. "Glenn Youngkin of Carlyle," Trump is seen saying from the White House. "Great group."

He also launched an "election integrity" task force with a five-point plan, ideas that resonate with voters who believe Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. In the final days before the convention, Youngkin campaigned with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has become a prominent Trump ally.

President Joe Biden won Virginia last year by 10 percentage points, and Democrats are favored to prevail in the November general election, but state politics often break with national trends — Louisiana and Kansas have Democratic governors, while Vermont and Massachusetts have Republican governors — so both parties are expected to vigorously contest the race.

CORRECTION (May 11, 6:54 P.M.): A headline in a previous version of this article misspelled the last name of the GOP nominee for Virginia governor. He is Glenn Youngkin, not Younkin.