Republican Glenn Youngkin hasn’t spoken much lately about President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud, the January 6 insurgency, or his party’s eroded confidence in the election. But when he did, it didn’t go well.
The GOP candidate for governor of Virginia argued this week that the state’s voting machines should be regularly audited, suggesting that this would ensure that “everyone can trust” the process. It was not said that the machines are already subject to annual audits.
The comment follows a recent interview in which Youngkin did not directly say whether he would have voted to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory had he been in Congress. He then followed up to say he would have done it.
The murky answers and clarification underscore Youngkin’s dilemma when it comes to talking about last year’s election. False claims and disinformation about the results are so widely accepted by Republican voters that challenging lies can be politically risky. For months, as he ran for his party’s nomination, Youngkin declined to say whether Biden was legitimately elected.
Now, in a general election, vying for the votes in a tight race in left-wing Virginia, Youngkin has tried to resist being called a election denier or let Democrats tie him to Trump’s false claims.
The former president did not make it easy. His political action committee sent an email Wednesday night highlighting a story on Youngkin’s comments, writing: “ICYMI: ‘Youngkin calls for audit of voting machines in Virginia.'”
Trump has pushed Republicans in battlefield states to hold “audits” of the results. He’s not convinced that the most high-profile review – a partisan review of the ballots in Arizona’s largest county – revealed no evidence the election was stolen.
Democrats have taken the emailed remarks as a sign the two men are lined up.
âLast night’s approval marked the fifth time Donald Trump has publicly endorsed Glenn Youngkin,â Virginia Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker said on a call with reporters Thursday. âGlenn just can’t get enough and he continues to be very much into Donald Trump’s baseless electoral conspiracy theories that erode our democratic processes and lead, as we have all seen, to violence. “
Youngkin’s opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, quickly posted an ad focused on Youngkin’s remarks, which overlaid the Republican’s audio on shaky video footage of the Jan.6 uprising on the U.S. Capitol. .
“Glenn Youngkin’s priorities are clear: he is running for governor to bring Donald Trump’s dangerous conspiracy theories to Virginia,” McAuliffe said in a statement.
The comments from Youngkin, a first-time businessman and political candidate, came as he addressed a historically black voting rights group, the Richmond Crusade for Voters, on Monday.
When asked if he would sign a law restricting voting rights, Youngkin responded by saying he wanted to restore confidence in the electoral process. He proposed removing the elections department from the purview of the governor’s office and making it âindependentâ, restoring a voter identification requirement and ensuring âvoter lists are kept up to dateâ.
âI think we need to make sure people trust these voting machines. And I just think … I grew up in a world where you have an audit every year, in companies, you have an audit. So let’s just check the voting machines, post it for everyone to see. And I think when we go ahead with that, we’re just going to make everyone comfortable that we actually have an electoral system that everyone can trust. “
Virginia already performs annual post-election ballot scanner audits, and one conducted after last year’s election confirmed that the results accurately portray the winner.
McAuliffe approved a bill in 2017 that outlined procedures for existing audits, and his campaign said Thursday that he still supported the law.
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Asked Thursday for further comment on his remarks, Youngkin spokesman Matt Wolking stressed that Youngkin had been calling for audits since February and said if he was elected “he will ensure that Virginia continues to conduct audits in the future and that they are thorough, efficient and precise “.
Youngkin made “electoral integrity” a central element of his campaign from the start. In February, when asked by the Washington Post if Biden was legitimately elected, he declined to say.
But since winning the nomination in May, Youngkin has acknowledged Biden’s victory and has mainly focused on other issues.
âI have said over and over again that Joe Biden is our president,â Youngkin said during his first debate against McAuliffe. “I wish he wasn’t.”
During the second debate, he declared that “there had been no material fraud” and that “the election was fairly certified”.
He didn’t completely give up on the subject, however. He spoke at a “electoral integrity” rally at Liberty University, the conservative Christian campus that is a popular campaign location for GOP candidates, in August. Earlier in the summer, he did not refute a conspiracy theory brought up by a participant during a campaign event, according to an exchange captured on audio and first reported by The Huffington Post.
After the attendee suggested that Trump could be reinstated, Youngkin replied, âI don’t know the details of how this can happen because what’s happening in the justice system is slowly changing and it doesn’t. is not clear. And we all know the courts move slowly.
Biden was certified as a winner and was sworn in in January. There is no pending court case that would reverse the outcome.
Youngkin has also been criticized for welcoming the support of State Senator Amanda Chase, who has embraced electoral conspiracy theories, during her campaign events. And two weeks ago, he did not respond directly when an Axios reporter asked him if he would have voted to certify the 2020 election, if he had been in Congress.
A day later, he clarified and said he “absolutely” would have done it.
Tucker Martin, a Virginia-based Republican consultant and former communications director for former Governor Bob McDonnell, said that with the end of the race and in its home stretch, the McAuliffe campaign has reason to tie Youngkin to Trump. – it will ignite the democratic voters. who handed over the state to Biden last year.
âThat’s what the Democrats are going to do to Glenn Youngkin by the end of the election. They must find every possible opportunity to remind voters that Glenn Youngkin is part of Donald Trump’s party.