It took a full day of voting any over 40 locations across the state of Virginia, and then three straight days of counting the ballots meticulously. And at the end, the Virginia Republican Party came out with three statewide nominees. With the ticket now completed, a consensus does seem to be forming. It’s not perfect, but Virginia Republicans might have their best ticket since their 2009 sweep of the state.
Attorney General: Miyares Made Republicans Sweat
I’ll go in order for how the races were counted for this review. The first race to be counted was the Attorney General primary, starting Sunday afternoon around 3:30 in the afternoon. The reasoning behind this race being first was clear. Not only did this race have the least amount of candidates (only four), but Delegate Jason Miyares (HD-82) was expected to coast to the nomination. It’s fair to say that didn’t happen.
It was quite clear from the start that Miyares was underperforming expectations. And the person who was right on his tail was what made Virginia Republicans sweat the most across the three days of counting: Chuck Smith, a far-right candidate, was right on Miyares’s back from the start. The count was close, with Smith getting big margins out of rural locations and most of Northern Virginia. Miyares was just barely ahead. But even after a disappointing start, with moderate Leslie Haley eliminated after round one, most thought her voters second choice would lean towards Miyares heavily. They did not, only giving him just over 200 more raw votes than Smith. That meant that Smith only needed 57% of Jack White’s voters, a more conservative candidate, to put him as their second or third choice.
Then, people’s priors were surprised again. Miyares kept a small, but consistent, lead with White voters in the third round. In the end, Miyares eeked out a small victory of around 3%. Republicans across the Commonwealth breathed a sigh of relief. It does ask questions of Miyares’s campaign however, and whether they sat on their laurels too much – a la Gillespie 2017 for the general – and nearly overlooked a far-right opponent. However, Miyares was the best of the bunch for Republicans, and he will be the nominee.
Governor: Virginia Runs on Youngkin – at Least for Republicans
After a rules change the day before, the counting days for Lieutenant Governor and Governor were switched. That meant Monday we would know who the Republican nominee for Governor would be. Results started to come in at around 10:15, and early results suggested we might have had a top four forming. Pete Snyder, Amanda Chase, Glenn Youngkin, and Kirk Cox all were over 20% of the first round vote and all of them had been in first place. Then, a change occurred; Glenn Youngkin started to pull away, boosted by huge margins out of Fairfax and his home area of Virginia Beach.
The bottom three candidates were swiftly eliminated, with Octavia Johnson and Peter Doran not even making a ripple in the field. Then, it came time to eliminate Kirk Cox, the 30-year delegate and former speaker, who had dropped to only 14% of the weighted vote by this time in the convention. It was here where Youngkin became a clear favorite. He won nearly half of the ballots that we cast for Cox, putting him at 42% of the weighted total. Only needing 31% of Amanda Chase ballots after the lunatic “big lie” pushing state senator was, to the joy of nearly everyone, eliminated after the 5th round. He got nearly half and clinched the nomination.
Now, the jury is still out there on whether Youngkin can get over the hump and actually win. But signs are there he can make the race competitive. With his massive personal fortune, he can compete with the Democratic nominee for Governor (probably Terry McAuliffe), and he has also promised to use that fortune to help downballot candidates. Republicans in Virginia do seem excited and are mostly united behind Youngkin. Pete Snyder and Kirk Cox both immediately came out and endorsed Youngkin at his victory rally in Richmond Tuesday. The only one yet to say anything is Amanda Chase, and I’d bet most Virginia Republicans would like it to stay that way.
Lieutenant Governor: Republicans Take a Risk, but Not One that Dooms the Ticket
Finally, Virginia Republicans were nearly at the end. All that was left was to go through 5 rounds for the Lieutenant Governors race. Some folks, myself included, thought the past two nights results would see Delegate Glenn Davis take this race. Very quickly it was clear that was not to be the case.
Winsome Sears, a former delegate from the Norfolk area and an African-American woman, jumped to a quick and early lead and never looked back. Davis and another former delegate, Tim Hugo from Fairfax, fought for second place. But as Maeve Rigler (multiple Virginia Republicans I spoke to called her “Amanda Chase lite”), Puneet Ahluwalia, and Lance Allen (who had a surprisingly strong showing) voters continued to support Sears over Hugo and Davis, it became clear before the final count even started between Sears and Hugo that it was over.
Though, there is reason to believe Hugo will be kicking himself. In the final week, Hugo was connected to two anti-gay attacks against Davis for votes he took in the House. That turned off multiple Davis voters in theory, and it seemed to be true after Davis’s ballots were re-allocated. 25% of them did not list another option after Davis.
Sears is a potential risk as a nominee. She ran to the right in the primary and was best known for blasting a picture of herself holding a large rifle over signs. But, she can distance herself from the far-right of the party. She tried to run a write-in campaign for Senate as a secondary option to Cory Stewart in 2018. But she is still the riskiest nominee the Virginia Republicans have and it will be interesting to see how she meshes with Youngkin and Miyares.
We do not have any ratings changes to the statewide races after the convention. All three will stay at Leans Democratic. However, we do have one change in our House of Delegates ratings. With Glenn Davis failing to gain the Lieutenant Governor’s nomination, it means he is free to run for his House of Delegates seat again. With that now confirmed, we are moving HD-84 from Tossup to Leans Republican.