Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate walks down the path of voter fraud
CHESTERFIELD, Va., Oct. 12 (Reuters) – At a recent rally in Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin spoke about his plans to boost the economy and fight crime, and said nothing at all about bogus claims that Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory was the result of fraud.
But some in the crowd still heard the message, moments before the speech by the former private equity executive, when Republican State Senator Amanda Chase told Youngkin supporters – behind the scenes and without a microphone – that she was on her guard against a repeat of electoral cheating.
“I know what Democrats are trying to do,” she said in an interview after remarks that drew cheers. “If things happen again like last year, they will be caught,” said Chase, one of Virginia’s leading voices in support of former President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud, which the had called last year to declare martial law after his loss. in Biden.
The dynamics exemplified Youngkin’s thin line walking the country trail. He tries to avoid pushing back staunch supporters of Trump, a Republican, whose claims that the election was stolen from him have been dismissed by dozens of courts, state election officials and members of his own. administration.
But Youngkin also doesn’t want to alienate independent voters who disapprove of Trump and his role in triggering the deadly Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol aimed at reversing his electoral defeat.
The Nov. 2 contest between Youngkin and his Democratic opponent, former Governor Terry McAuliffe, is widely seen as an indicator of the 2022 congressional races that will determine which party controls Congress during Biden’s second half of his term.
“Youngkin has the difficult job that falls on many mainstream Republicans,” said Jessica Taylor, analyst for the Cook Political Report, who sees the Youngkin-McAuliffe race as a failure. “You have to thread the needle really tight here because you can’t irritate the Trump base which you need too.”
Trump backed Youngkin and warned the vote could be rigged against the Republican.
Youngkin, however, called Biden’s victory “certifiable fair.” He made more nuanced statements about the integrity of the elections, saying this month that Virginia’s voting machines need to be audited, which is already being done.
At his rally on Friday, which was held under a covered merry-go-round in Chesterfield, south of the state capital, Richmond, Youngkin told the crowd: “We need election observers. Please volunteer. to be election observers. “
He also told the rally that he was grateful that Chase spoke there. “Thank you for being our partner,” he said, gesturing to her in the crowd. Chase, who lost to Youngkin in the Republican primary, has participated in several of his campaign events.
Asked about the disconnect between Youngkin and Chase’s comments on voter fraud, Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter cited McAuliffe’s connections to Democrats involved in past election disputes, including the former vice-president. President Al Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential election to Republican George W. Bush after the Supreme Court halted recounts and Stacey Abrams, who challenged his 2018 loss in the Georgia governorship race.
McAuliffe’s campaign picked up on Youngkin’s comments about electoral machine audits, running a TV commercial last week comparing Youngkin’s position to what a voice in the spot described as “conspiracy theories.” of Trump, juxtaposed with footage of the January 6 riot.
Virginia has become a Democrat in the past decade, in part thanks to population growth in its liberal Washington suburb.
Biden defeated Trump in Virginia by 10 percentage points, the fourth consecutive election in which a Democratic presidential candidate won the Southern State. Republicans won Virginia in every presidential election from 1968 to 2004.
Many Youngkin supporters at his rally said they were aware of Youngkin’s balance regarding the loss of Trump in 2020.
“He probably can’t come out and say it was robbed like I can,” said Tim Ashlin, 63, a retired utility systems operator from Cumberland, Virginia. “He must be more centrist.”
Some experts fear that Youngkin’s messages – and his campaign’s use of Chase – could undermine people’s confidence in the U.S. election.
“He’s clearly trying to have his cake and eat it too,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a voting rights watchdog.
Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney
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