The former Carlyle Group CEO came out on top of the Trump-friendly GOP field after a controversial nominating process.
Glenn Youngkin will become the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia after fellow businessman Pete Snyder conceded following a full day of ballot counting.
Youngkin, a former private equity executive, will face whomever Democrats nominate in their own primary next month.
“While certainly would have preferred a W, I send my heartfelt congratulations to @glennyoungkin on a tremendous race + deserved win. He + the ticket have my 100% support. Grateful to @Bursonsnyder + entire team. Love you all + our big family that is the VA GOP,” Snyder said in a tweet, conceding the race.
Seven candidates competed for the GOP nomination in an unusual and controversial “unassembled convention” held Saturday, when some 28,000 Republican voters and activists cast weighted and rank-choiced ballots at dozens of locations across the state after the party opted against a standard primary.
Youngkin, 54, retired as co-CEO of the private equity giant Carlyle Group last year and turned his focus to politics. His personal wealth helped seed his bid for the GOP nomination. He loaned himself $5.5 million in the first quarter of 2021, according to the most recently available campaign finance disclosures.
Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial election, which always takes place the year after a presidential vote, is often read as a bellwether of the national mood a year into a new presidential term.
Democrats currently control both chambers of the Virginia Legislature and every office in the state, including the governorship, but its constitution prohibits governors from seeking a second consecutive term. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the favorite in his party’s June 8 primary.
Among Republicans, all leading candidates aligned themselves with former President Donald Trump, including Youngkin and Snyder — a longtime Republican donor who chaired Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign in Virginia — despite both having backgrounds in the more establishment-friendly country club wing of the GOP.
In some ways, Youngkin’s play for Trump supporters was tame when compared against some rivals. State Sen. Amanda Chase, for example, was censured by her colleagues for her incendiary rhetoric and forced to sit in a plexiglass box because she refused to wear a mask under pandemic protocols — all while embracing the “Trump in heels” label affixed to her.
Youngkin found more substantive ways to tie himself to the former president. One TV ad featured footage of Trump singling out Youngkin by name for credit on a trade deal with China. “Glenn Youngkin of Carlyle,” Trump is seen saying from the White House. “Great group.”
He also launched an “election integrity” task force and five-point plan, ideas that resonate with voters who believe Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. In the final days before the convention, Youngkin campaigned with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has become a prominent Trump ally.
President Joe Biden won Virginia last year by 10 percentage points and Democrats are favored to prevail in the November general election, but state politics often break with national trends — Louisiana and Kansas have Democratic governors while Vermont and Massachusetts have Republican ones — so both parties are expected to vigorously contest the race.