RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The race to become Virginia’s next governor is heating up. Republican lawmaker Kirk Cox says he can do a better job at running the commonwealth than his opponents.
Tuesday, the former speaker of the house and current delegate announced his 2021 bid through a video message. The 63-year-old says he is the only Republican candidate that can unify the party and win.
“I am running for Governor because I cannot watch the Virginia we’ve built slip away. The timeless principles upon which our representative democracy were built are under attack, unchecked one-party Democratic control in Richmond is tearing our state apart, and people feel like their leaders are not listening,” said Cox. “We have to fight back against the cancel culture and the elitism, against misguided collectivist policies, and a worldview that puts the government in charge of every facet of our lives.”
Cox represents the 66th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, which includes the City of Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield County. He was first elected in 1989. He is a retired public school teacher who taught U.S. and Virginia government in Prince George County and Petersburg before spending most of his career at Manchester High School in Chesterfield. He hopes to be the first Republican in the executive mansion since 2009.
“We’re struggling to get our schools open again even getting guidance on that, so that’s probably one of the motivations,” said Cox.
He points to recently rolled out restrictions he says were jumbled by the current administration. Over the last 10 months, Cox says Democratic leadership has been devastating for the state and that includes the COVID-19 response and recovery.
“Just no one knows what’s going on. I mean if you look at Friday’s announcement, the executive order followed well after the announcement, there was no press conference, there was tremendous confusion,” said Cox.
Cox is now the second Republican to announce a run for the state’s job top. State Senator Amanda Chase is also in the race.
“They continue to put up candidates that are outside of the mainstream and right-wing extremists that fall more in line with Donald Trump,” said Susan Swecker, Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman.
Democrats Jennifer Carroll Foy, Jennifer McClellan, and Justin Fairfax have all announced they’re running in 2021. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe filed paperwork to run but hasn’t declared yet. Swecker says they want to build on record voter turnout momentum from this past election to keep control of all aspects of state government.
“We’ve been able to pass voting reforms and made voting easy and accessible this year with record turnout, expanded Medicaid which is now up to 450,000 Virginians that didn’t have any access to health care before,” said Swecker.
Political analysts say it will likely be an uphill battle for any Republican candidate unless they become more moderate.
“Virginia is a moderate maybe moderate liberal state because of the changes that have taken place around Virginia demographically northern Virginia, the Richmond area, Tidewater, a lot of university communities growing at a fast clip,” said Larry Sabato, UVa Center for Politics Executive Director.
State Democrats will hold a primary on June 8, 2021. State Republicans will meet in December to decide the method of nomination. If they select a state-run primary, it would also be June 8, 2021.
Meanwhile, Governor Ralph Northam cannot run in 2021 due to the state constitution limiting governors to non-consecutive four-year terms.
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