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National Republicans are making a big investment in the Virginia governor’s race, an indication that the GOP sees an opportunity in a state that many in the party had written off until recently.
The Republican National Committee is dispatching over 100 field staffers to the state, nearly doubling the size of its program in Virginia’s 2017 race for governor, according to a person familiar with the plans. The organization is also opening 13 offices across the state.
The race — which pits Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor, against Republican Glenn Youngkin — is widely seen as competitive. The party out of power in the White House has a history of winning Virginia’s gubernatorial contests, something that could point to a Republican win this year. Republicans captured the governor’s mansion in 1993, the same year former President Bill Clinton took office, and in 2009, just after former President Barack Obama was sworn in.
The trend has gone both ways. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam was elected in 2017, during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. In all three instances, the party that won the Virginia contest went on to achieve sweeping gains in the midterm elections a year later. But it's not an iron-clad rule: McAuliffe won the governorship in 2013, one year into Obama's second term.
Youngkin’s considerable financial resources could also turn the race into a dogfight. The wealthy investment executive has already loaned his campaign $12 million, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks spending in the state’s elections. The figure is more than half of the $19 million Youngkin has raised in total.
“The RNC has partnered with the Republican Party of Virginia to make a multi-million-dollar investment to hire over 100 staffers, open over a dozen state victory offices, promote election integrity, and employ our data-driven ground game to elect Glenn Youngkin and retake control of the House of Delegates,” said Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chairwoman. “We look forward to victory come November.”
McDaniel was in touch with Youngkin as the plan was hammered out in recent weeks, and other top RNC officials spoke with the Virginia Republican Party chairman, Rich Anderson, and the party’s state legislative leaders.
Many in the GOP had stopped seeing Virginia as a viable target, thanks largely to the population boom in the liberal-leaning Northern Virginia suburbs. Democrats control all three of Virginia’s statewide offices and both chambers of the state legislature. President Joe Biden won the state by 10 points in 2020.
Youngkin, a first-time candidate, won the Republican nomination in May, prevailing over a field of a half-dozen other candidates. His Democratic opponent is also expected to benefit from a deep well of resources: McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and a prolific fundraiser, has raised $14 million this year. Unlike Youngkin, he has not loaned himself any money.