Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin's recent major legislative loss is shedding light on state Republican infighting, The Washington Post reports.
As other GOP members push to remove House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) from his position over failing to counter Youngkin's Spirit of Virginia political action committee's anti-abortion $1.4 million TV campaign, Virginia Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) is challenging the speaker for his seat.
The Post spoke with three GOP delegates who "said the governor's PAC did not consult them about the ad buy or the flurry of mailers on the same theme that the PAC sent to some districts," and the claimed the PAC also "ignored their concerns and made last-minute demands for them to appear at Youngkin-led rallies and other events, which they said were primarily meant to promote his potential last-minute bid for president."
With prospects for his conservative agenda and potential White House bid on the line, Youngkin and his team made abortion a central theme with all 140 House and Senate seats on the ballot and both narrowly divided chambers up for grabs.
The strategy was a notable shift for Virginia Republicans, who have tended to play up kitchen table issues — such as the economy, schools and crime — and downplay abortion. After wooing GOP caucus voters with a vow to 'protect the life of every Virginia child born and unborn,' Youngkin himself said little about abortion in the 2021 general election. He was captured on video saying he had to downplay the issue to win swing voters but promising to 'go on offense' against the procedure once elected.
The governor eventually "proposed banning abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk," the report notes.
Two people familiar with the campaign told the Post that Kilgore was aware of "the abortion strategy and approved of it," but one delegate denies that claim.
"I have worked with the Governor and support his agenda whole heartedly," Kilgore said in a statement to the Post."However, this isn't about the Governor — it's about the future of leadership in the House of Delegates, and making the changes we need to make to be successful in the long term for the Virginians we represent."
He added, "While we are at a crossroads that we neither wanted nor expected, now is the time to come together and move forward."
The Post emphasizes that "infighting within the Virginia GOP suggests that Youngkin, at the midpoint of his four-year term, could have trouble with his own party as he faces a General Assembly controlled by Democrats."
Referring to the failed anti-abortion campaign, another Republican delegate told the Post, "We literally ran on one of the third rails of politics. We told them, this is the year to run on inflation, grocery bills, gas bills, fuel costs, freakin’ child care. … If we're not providing an answer or a solution to those things, then the people are looking at us like, 'Why are you talking about abortion?''
According to the report, the PACs executive director, Matthew Moran, said "on X that he looked forward to addressing any criticism at a panel discussion Monday night," writing, "Losing sucks, and I'm never afraid to wear anything on my chin. You can't be prepared to take the credit if you’re not also prepared to take the criticism. … I expect a good discussion on the effect of the Secure Your Vote Virginia program, the role of abortion and the thoughts behind our strategy to combat the attacks (most of them completely false), and why we invested in certain races. I look forward to all of that."
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet