This weekend, over 50,000 registered delegates from across the Commonwealth of Virginia will go to convention locations across the state. There, those Republican voters will fill out their ballots, using ranked choice voting, and pick nominees for the three statewide contests this summer.
Now, one race is expected to go a certain way. The nomination for Attorney General is widely expected to be won by Delegate Jason Miyares (HD-82). He has united enough wings of the Virginia GOP to seemingly glide to the general. The other two races however are much less clear. The Governor’s race has two clear favorites in Pete Snyder and Glenn Youngkin, with Kirk Cox possibly sneaking in. Then, the Lieutenant Governor race has three candidates all potentially viable for the nomination. I’m going to give my thoughts on both races as a guide before this Saturday’s big convention.
Glenn Youngkin Has the Momentum
Now, I’m going to preface this with the acknowledgement that I do personally support Glenn Youngkin in this race – but I wouldn’t be making this call if I didn’t have some evidence to back this up. It has been clear for the last couple months that Youngkin has made inroads. When he first announced, many speculated that Youngkin would be done in if the nomination method wasn’t a primary. Even with his vast wealth, blasting ads on TV wouldn’t help in a convention system. Instead however, Youngkin has surprised. He has shown acumen at retail politics, traveling across the state to recruit voters and delegates. His ability to self fund has also piqued the interest of Virginia Republicans. All this has vaulted Youngkin to the forefront of the pack.
It now appears that Youngkin has the momentum headed into the convention, and I think he finds himself more amicable to Cox voters as well as a second choice compared to Snyder. With the ranked choice system, I see that favoring Youngkin more than Snyder. While I am picking Youngkin, don’t rule out Pete Snyder. He still has a good shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out on top. His campaign is being helped by the Shores, who have played the convention system before and used it to knock out Denver Riggleman this past summer. But I think Youngkin has the greater chance of being the nominee once all the votes are counted. The energy and momentum is there for Youngkin, and I think him being the preferred second choice for Cox voters is going to be enough to push him over the edge.
Is There a Favorite in the Lieutenant Governor’s Race?
I half pondered whether I should make any call on this race at all. The Lieutenant Governor’s race for the Republicans will be their closest, not unlike what’s starting to happen in the same race on the Democratic side. Three candidates are clear contenders in delegate Glenn Davis and former delegates Tim Hugo and Winsome Sears. For most of the race, it was between Davis and Hugo. But Sears’s late entry and endorsements from conservative and controversial figures in Bob Good and E.W. Jackson have vaulted her into the conversation. That has come at a hit to Hugo, who was angling himself as the more conservative option and who has gotten most of the endorsements from local and congressional representatives in western Virginia. Davis, as he has in the House of Delegates, has taken a more moderate and pro-business stance to his campaign, and is arguably the only viable candidate of his type in the field.
This race has also gotten particularly nasty in the last week, especially between Hugo and Davis. Hugo put out a campaign flyer of Davis at a pride parade to criticize him for perceived “liberal” votes he took in the House of Delegates. That the turned into a text that called Davis “Gay Glenn” and said was from the Hugo campaign. Hugo quickly had to deny the attacks, stating that they were not from his campaign. This isn’t going away as an issue however, and Davis has sued whomever sent out the text. In the ranked choice voting method, this could really damage Hugo with Davis voters and could push them to list Winsome Sears and even Lance Allen before Hugo on the ballot. All this leads to a relatively close and hard to call race. However, we call races here at Elections Daily, and I’m willing too put my neck on the line again by saying I have Glenn Davis, barely, taking the nomination here. His base is wide enough to appeal to NOVA and Richmond area convention goers, which in this system, will be enough to put him over the top.
How I Could Be Wrong
Now, the only race I am near 100% confident in is the Attorney General race. If anyone other than Jason Miyares wins the nomination there, I and many others will be stunned. However, there are clear scenarios where I would end up being wrong. For the Governor’s race it’s pretty simple. Snyder just has enough of support from Cox voters as his second choice, and he’s the second choice for most of the unserious candidates as well. That would put him over the top and as the nominee.
For the Lieutenant Governor’s race, it’s simple there as well. I may have underestimated how quickly Sears has gained support, and she’s then the second choice of most of the Hugo voters, allowing her to beat Davis. Similarly, if Hugo wins, I overestimated how much the past week hurt him and Sears voters liked him over Davis.
No matter what, it will take days to count these ballots and it will be close. However, at the end of it all I expect Virginia Republicans to have Glenn Youngkin, Glenn Davis and Jason Miyares as their three statewide nominees for the 2021 elections.