Former Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox is making his gubernatorial run official.
Cox announced Tuesday his run for governor in 2021, saying he had the right background and approach to win in a state where no Republican has won a statewide race in more than a decade.
Cox was elected as speaker in 2018, but he lost that role after Democrats won a majority in both the House and Senate last November. He announced in August that he was seriously considering a run for governor, citing what he called a “vacuum of leadership” created by Democrats. In October, he filed a “statement of organization” to establish a campaign committee.
His formal announcement comes two weeks after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden defeated Republican President Donald Trump by huge margins in a state where a growing number of suburban voters has flocked to Democratic candidates in recent election cycles.
But Cox, a retired high school teacher, said in a Monday interview with The Associated Press there's a strong chance swing voters will be unhappy with how Democrats have led the state and will be looking for an alternative.
He said he plans to run as a conservative, particularly on social issues like guns and abortion, but also as someone who can work with Democrats on kitchen-table issues in a respectful way.
“I feel like that's a winning way to be,” Cox said.
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Current Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, cannot seek a second consecutive term under state law.
Cox has been highly critical of how Northam has handled the coronavirus, saying the governor has botched school reopenings. He's also blasted Democratic efforts at criminal justice and police reforms in the wake of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Cox has characterized some of the police reforms as “anti-law enforcement.”
Cox has strong pro-business and anti-abortion credentials, but he also helped push through Medicaid expansion, which many conservatives opposed.
Firebrand conservative state Sen. Amanda Chase has announced she’s running for governor. Northern Virginia businessman Pete Snyder may also run.
Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. Several Democrats, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, either have announced they are running or have indicated they might.
Cox currently represents the 66th District in the House of Delegates, which includes Colonial Heights and parts of Chesterfield.