May 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Virginia GOP pick Glenn Youngkin's business pitch for the governorship

Image of Glenn Youngkin
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Virginia Republicans on Monday night nominated Glenn Youngkin, former co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, to take on Terry McAuliffe in the year's only open-seat governor's race.

Why it matters: Private equity candidates can become proxies for the industry, and how the public views it.

State of play: Youngkin faces an uphill battle in Virginia, which hasn't elected a Republican governor in over a decade. It also has a Democratic state legislature, two Democratic senators and last went red for president in 2004.

  • He won a complex "unassembled convention," in which delegates voted at nearly 40 drive-thru sites.
  • Former President Trump endorsed Youngkin on Tuesday, after his nomination.

Stump stuff: I spoke on Tuesday with Youngkin, who hopes the race catalyzes as outsider businessman vs. career politician. He also isn't too concerned that the past two candidates who made that pitch to Virginia voters — Mitt Romney and Donald Trump — got beat.

  • "There's a huge difference between someone running for what a president does and for what a governor does, which is running a state," he said. "My business career is viewed by Virginians as a successful track record of getting things done... Terry's never run a business."
  • He spoke a lot about Virginia taxes being too high, and the need to create more and better jobs. When I asked how he'd handle the private equity caricature, which involves destroying jobs and getting tax breaks, he pivoted to decrying Democrats' "divisive" politics.
  • It's worth noting that longtime Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, also has a private equity/venture capital background.

Issues: Youngkin supports Amazon's big HQ2 project in Arlington, but argues he "would have cut a heck of a better deal."

  • He talked a lot about "voter integrity" during the campaign, so I asked if Joe Biden had been legitimately elected. This led to several minutes of dodging, mostly focused on the fact that Biden is the president (which is true, but not what I asked) and that we should look forward rather than backward.
  • Finally, on my third or fourth try, he said "of course" (but then added some other stuff, so not 100% certain he meant to legitimize the election).

Elsewhere: Expect other private equity execs with electoral ambitions to closely watch the Virginia governor's race, even if they don't share Youngkin's politics.

  • The Carlyle Group also is sure to be scouring its own files for possible deal skeletons, much as Bain Capital did when Romney ran for president.

The bottom line: Youngkin spent almost his entire professional career at Carlyle, before stepping down last summer, which means the election will largely be a referendum on his time there.

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