Decision 2024

Hung Cao projected to win Republican nomination in Virginia US Senate race

Five candidates faced off — and none has held public office before.

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Hung Cao won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Virginia's primary, NBC News projects.

The race was one of the most important primary contests in Virginia this election cycle, as Republicans face Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in the general election.

Five candidates competed, four of whom live in Northern Virginia.

None of the five candidates has held public office before.

Hung Cao

The frontrunner in fundraising, Cao also won the coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Cao came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1975 and was later commissioned into the Navy as a special operations officer, retiring as a captain.

“This whole failure of this country right now is because of Tim Kaine backing all of Joe Biden’s policies,” Cao said after his victory. “You know, we’re paying a billion dollars a day for illegal aliens. We’re being invaded by … 177 different countries through our southern border, and there’s no end to this. And now, we want to give amnesty.”

For Cao, the border and immigration policy are a top concern.

"We need to secure that border now, now, now," Cao has told News4. "I'm telling you right now as a legal immigrant to this county, don't ask for the American dream if you aren't willing to obey the American laws and embrace the American culture. I love this country so much I put my life on the line for it and I bled for it."

Chuck Smith

Smith worked for two decades as a U.S. Navy legal officer before opening his law office in the Virginia Beach area.

He, too, led a distinguished military career, but was behind Cao in fundraising.

"I will stand up for the Constitution," Smith told WHSV, the ABC affiliate station for Harrisonburg. "I will make sure our border is under check. My personal belief is we should not have any type of immigration until we get our border fixed. The people who are currently in the system can proceed, but no new applications until we get our border under control."

Eddie Garcia

Garcia spent two decades in the Army, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and later at the Pentagon. Despite his storied military career, he is also behind Cao in fundraising.

Garcia directed part of his message toward the working class.

"The people in Washington, D.C. have enriched themselves," Garcia told WHSV. "They have increased their power and control over everybody's lives. The working people, the farmers, the ranchers, the single moms, the landscapers, the bricklayers, the construction workers ... these people are getting left behind."

Jonathan Emord

Emord, an attorney, boasted that he's worked for 38 years suing federal government agencies. He said he wanted to dismantle "the administrative state."

"We don't need bureaucrats telling us how to live," Emord told WHSV. "We know how to live ourselves and we need them to get out of the way."

"They want the government out of their lives and that's what I want to do," Emord said.

Scott Parkinson

Parkinson said he was best prepared of the candidates in the field to join the U.S. Senate, having previously worked for three U.S. senators.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Congress, Parkinson served as his chief of staff. Most recently, Parkinson has been a vice president with the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

"I understand the rules," Parkinson told News4. "The precedent, procedure, the public policy fights, federal casework, helping the Virginians navigate the federal bureaucracy."

"For me there is not going to be this gigantic learning curve on day one," he said. "I can be effective for all Virginians, and that's what we are working to do."

No matter who wins the GOP nomination, they face a steep uphill battle. As Tim Kaine seeks his third term in the Senate, he starts with $8 million on hand. That's compared to a few hundred thousand dollars in his top challengers' campaign accounts.

Tuesday's race was the second Virginia primary of the 2024 election cycle. The presidential primary in Virginia was held in March.

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