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Republican candidates for Governor debate in Lynchburg

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 4:41 AM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - It was a packed crowd and a packed stage Monday night, five of the Republican candidates for governor facing off in a debate at Thomas Road Baptist Church. The ninety-minute event was hosted by the Liberty University College Republicans. Two of the Republican candidates, Pete Snyder and Octavia Johnson, didn’t attend.

The forum comes just three weeks before the Virginia GOP Convention May 8.

Candidates spent much of the evening stressing their own records and accomplishments.

Former Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox argued he can jump in and start getting things done on day one. He also said his years as a teacher make him an ideal candidate to help Virginia students after a year of virtual learning.

Sen. Amanda Chase burnished her reputation as an uncompromising hard conservative, and held up her recent censure by the State Senate and removal from committee assignments as a badge of honor.

Col. Sergio De La Pena, Glen Youngkin, and Peter Doran all stressed their positions as political outsiders, representing the military and businesses worlds.

“If we are going to be the best, that means we are going to phase out the state income tax here in Virginia,” said Doran, who headed up a think tank in Northern Virginia.

Pena pitched himself as a different kind of candidate.

“I can reach the immigrant community because I am an immigrant,” he said.

All five candidates pledged staunch support of Second Amendment rights, and to roll back some or all of the Commonwealth’s recent gun control laws.

“I have a lifetime A rating with the NRA, and I carry,” said Amanda Chase, pointing to her purse.

“I would support constitutional carry. I would support rolling back the aggressive gun-grabbing legislation the Democrats put in,” said Peter Doran.

Candidates also drew contrasts on how best to help Virginia’s students bounce back after a year of virtual learning.

“We need intense tutoring. We need to make sure everyone’s on board,” said Cox. “Student teachers at colleges should be helping with that tutoring.”

“There’s never been any competition in our school system. Let’s be clear, Virginia’s forgotten how to compete for our kids’ futures,” said Glenn Youngkin.

The candidates also universally condemned Virginia’s parole board, and Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of controversy that has surrounded it for months.

After the forum, the Liberty College Republicans conducted a straw poll. Glenn Youngkin came in first, with nearly 50% of the vote. Amanda Chase was second, with 25%.

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