Former President Donald Trump on Friday touted Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin as a champion against crime and critical race theory, doubling down on the political newcomer’s bid to retake the governors’ mansion of Republicans.
Mr. Youngkin, who is challenging Democrat Terry McAuliffe in November’s general election, initially received Mr. Trump‘s endorsement in May.
“Glenn has been an incredible success and will truly Make Virginia Great Again,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Virginia has so much potential but has been badly hurt by awful economic policy, terrible crime, and the worst education system promoting Critical Race Theory, etc. But, Glenn will fix this immediately.”
Mr. Trump also dubbed Mr. McAuliffe, whom he alluded to having a once-good relationship with, as a “political hack.”
“I knew McAuliffe well,” Mr. Trump said. “He accepted large campaign contributions from me, said only great things and would do whatever I wanted, until I ran for office.”
In a campaign email shortly after Trump‘s latest comments, Mr. McAuliffe attacked Mr. Youngkin as being “two peas in a pod” with Mr. Trump, but acknowledged that his popularity is creeping up in polls.
“Trump is right about one thing: the numbers are looking good for Youngkin. And that’s really bad news for us and for Virginia,” the email said. “Right now, polls show a statistical tie, and Youngkin is continuing to outraise and outspend us on the airwaves.”
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018, has sought to gain an advantage in the race by linking his opponent to the former president.
“I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done, but let me be clear. Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican,” Mr. McAuliffe said in a political ad last month. “He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.”
In a separate ad released at the end of June, Mr. McAuliffe highlighted Mr. Youngkin‘s acceptance of Mr. Trump‘s endorsement, painting a dire picture of the coronavirus pandemic and the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that left a protester dead.
Mr. Youngkin secured the party’s nomination in May, after beating out six other GOP rivals, including state Sen. Amanda Chase, viewed by some as being the most pro-Trump candidate.
Mr. Youngkin, a businessman from Great Falls, is a first-time political candidate who is running as an outsider.
“I’m totally honored,” Mr. Youngkin said of receiving Mr. Trump‘s endorsement. “It’s reflective of the fact that we’ve received a lot of endorsements, and those endorsements reflect the Republican Party coming together around an outsider.”
Virginia, which has leaned blue for decades, went for President Joe Biden by a 10-point margin in the 2020 election over Mr. Trump.
In 2016, Mr. Trump lost the state by a 5-point margin to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The last Republican to hold the governorship was former Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2014. Democrats also currently control both chambers of the state Legislature.
Virginia law bars governors from running for consecutive terms, though former governors can run again at a later time.