Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) on Sunday defended his decision to endorse Kari Lake, a far-right election denier, for governor of Arizona, and to campaign with her later this month.
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union,” Youngkin said he won his race against former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November 2021, becoming the first Republican to win the office since 2009, by building a broad coalition of voters. He said the Republican Party needs to move forward ― perhaps a tacit suggestion that the GOP should spend less time dwelling on former President Donald Trump’s false claims that voter fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential race.
“What I found in Virginia was that we could bring together ‘Forever Trumpers’ and ‘Never Trumpers,’ and libertarians and Tea Party members, and, oh, by the way, lots of independents and lots of Democrats,” Youngkin said. “I think that the Republican Party has to be a party where we are not shunning people and excluding them, because we don’t agree on everything. We just don’t agree on everything.”
Youngkin added that Arizona needs to elect a Republican who will promote GOP priorities.
“What Arizona deserves is a Republican governor who will keep taxes down, who will support school choice, who will bring companies into the economy to create opportunity,” Youngkin said.
Lake has claimed the 2020 election was illegitimate and “corrupt.” She’s received the endorsement of Trump, who campaigned with her in Arizona this past weekend. As a candidate, she has also spoken against COVID-19 vaccines and mask mandates.
Lake is locked in a tight race with Democrat Katie Hobbs, who declined an invitation to participate in a head-to-head debate with her opponent.
“Unfortunately, debating a conspiracy theorist like Kari Lake ― whose entire campaign platform is to cause enormous chaos and make Arizona the subject of national ridicule ― would only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling,” Nicole DeMont, Hobbs’ campaign manager, said last month.
When CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Youngkin about how extreme Lake’s views are ― especially since Youngkin himself has accepted the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s win in 2020 ― the Virginia governor said we should make sure to “understand there is distrust in the election process,” without making specific references to Lake’s baseless claims.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) who will be stepping down at the end of her current term after losing her primary, has laid out the stakes of the governor’s race in Arizona — a battleground state that Biden narrowly won in 2020.
“You have a candidate for governor in Kari Lake, you have a candidate for secretary of state in Mark Finchem, both of whom have said — this isn’t a surprise, it’s not a secret — they both said that they will only honor the results of an election if they agree with it,” Cheney said last week at an event hosted in the state.
She continued: “If you care about democracy, and you care about the survival of our republic, then you need to understand, we all have to understand, that we cannot give people power who have told us that they will not honor elections.”
Virginia has a single-term limit for governors, which means Youngkin will have to step down from the office at the end of his term.
There has been widespread speculation that Youngkin is mulling a 2024 presidential run, but for now, he says he is focused on his current role and on helping the party’s efforts in various contests.
“I am focused on getting some Republican congressional candidates elected in Virginia and some governors elected around the nation,” Youngkin said. “2024 is a long way away. And I’m really humbled by the speculation, but right now, I’m very focused on Virginia.”