Youngkin stumps for Pillen, GOP in first Midwest foray amid presidential buzz

By: - July 9, 2022 2:20 pm

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin addresses the state convention of the Nebraska Republican Party in Kearney, Neb. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

KEARNEY, Nebraska — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke Saturday to the Nebraska Republican Party, in an appearance close enough to Iowa that Fox News and the Washington Post wrote about a potential White House bid.

Youngkin, in an interview with the Nebraska Examiner, said he is focused on doing the job he was elected to do. He said he came to Nebraska because Gov. Pete Ricketts asked him.

“I think that there’s a lot of speculation around presidential stuff, and therefore my head’s down, I’m paying attention to Virginia,” he said. “I’m helping out other governors.” 

Ricketts helped Youngkin

Ricketts co-chairs the Republican Governors Association, which helps elect GOP governors. Youngkin said Ricketts helped him win in 2021, including by acting as an informal campaign adviser.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at the Nebraska Republican Party convention in Kearney, Neb. (Courtesy of Micheal Dwyer, Nebraska Republican Party)

Youngkin pledged to support Jim Pillen, Nebraska’s GOP nominee for governor and attended a luncheon fundraiser for Pillen in Omaha. Youngkin said he hopes to help Republicans in a handful of other races, including a few Virginia congressional races.

Many conservatives see Youngkin’s win in Virginia as a model for harnessing the energy of base voters who love former President Donald Trump, without turning off suburban voters, who do not. 

“It’s not an ‘either-or’ moment,” Youngkin said. “It’s an ‘and’ moment. I just hugged everybody. … In Virginia, we had independents and Democrats come with us.”

“We need everybody in order to march to where we think we need to go, which is a better America.” 

He and pundits credited his focus on engaging parents in public education for reversing Virginia’s drift to Democrats, driven by voters in the growing suburbs of Washington, D.C. 

Much of the language now being widely used in Republican circles about critical race theory and coronavirus closures in education resonated in Virginia during Youngkin’s race.

Red energy

Youngkin said during his speech Saturday that residents of a Virginia border city watched businesses in Tennessee thrive while Virginia businesses closed under Democratic leadership.

Youngkin said his campaign’s focus was on low taxes, great schools, empowering parents, supporting law enforcement, protecting constitutional rights and making government work.

The governor said he spoke with Ricketts and heard that the 600 people attending the Nebraska GOP convention Saturday was a record crowd. He said he sees that same red energy in Virginia.

“I’m really, really optimistic about where we stand right now,” Youngkin said of GOP momentum. “This is a chance for us to recognize that we have to stay together.”

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.