(WASHINGTON) — Virginia Republicans could see an influx of cash from top donors following Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s two-day retreat ahead of the state’s high-stakes legislative elections next month.
The “Red Vest Retreat,” named after the fleece Youngkin wore during his 2021 campaign, was held on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s the latest example of how high the stakes are seen for Youngkin, as he eyes total GOP control of the General Assembly.
“When you consider the timing, it appears to me like Gov. Youngkin is all-in on getting a unified Republican legislature and installing as much of his agenda in as he can in the last two years of this term,” said Dr. Chapman Rackaway, a professor and chair of political science at Radford University.
While Youngkin has been eyed by some prominent donors as a potential late entrant in the 2024 presidential race, someone who attended the retreat told ABC News that he remains focused on Virginia.
“What’s best for him right now is to take care of Virginia,” this donor said. “Is there a time for something in the future? I don’t know. He’s the kind of person I would love to see at the helm of our country.”
As recently as last month, Youngkin avoided questions about his potential White House ambitions, saying instead: “To have people throw my name around and as somebody who would potentially vie for, I think, the most revered and respected office in the world is hugely humbling.”
Notably, the donor, who asked not to be quoted by name to speak candidly, said they are still “waiting and seeing” who to support among the 2024 GOP primary presidential candidates.
Another donor who attended the retreat said that there were about 75-100 attendees from all over the country, “though they faithfully stuck to Virginia for discussion topics.”
Stephen Farnsworth, a political analyst at the University of Mary Washington, told ABC News that while he believes Youngkin is unlikely to launch a presidential run this election, “It is much better to be talked about than not.”
“He’s been able to generate a lot of fundraising for Virginia candidates and has put himself in the conversation for 2028,” Farnsworth said, adding that even if Youngkin is able to succeed in gaining control of the state Legislature, it would not be logical for him to immediately join the presidential race.
“It is mentally challenging to imagine what Youngkin could say or do as a candidate in 2024 that would change the dynamics of [Donald] Trump’s huge advantage in the Republican nomination,” Farnsworth said, referring to the former president, who is the front-runner in polls.
Farnsworth said that because Youngkin has invested so much in the legislative elections, if Democrats end up controlling one chamber, he will not only see two more years of having to navigate a split General Assembly, which will likely block key conservative priorities — he “will be behind other Republican candidates who have successful records of legislative accomplishment.”
The highly competitive election has already seen significant amounts of money in recent months from both parties.
Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee, which hosted this week’s megadonor retreat, has previously drawn in huge sums — receiving three $1 million donations from billionaire Thomas Petterfly and a $2 million donation from Jeff Yass. The PAC also raised $7.45 million in the final quarter before the November elections, according to a news release.
“Gov. Youngkin is spending all his time, energy and resources helping Virginia Republicans hold the House and flip the Senate so we can move the commonwealth forward,” Dave Rexrode, Youngkin’s political adviser and chairman of his PAC, said in a statement.
Democrats have also poured historic amounts of money into the elections as they hope to regain control of the House of Delegates and maintain their narrow majority in the state Senate.
In September, the Democratic National Committee invested $1.2 million, bringing the total contribution from the DNC to the Democratic Party of Virginia to $1.5 million. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has also spent $2.2 million.
“We’ve been keeping pace with Youngkin so far, but we’re definitely sounding the alarm of any influx of money he might receive,” DLCC spokesperson Abhi Rahman told ABC News. “In races like these, all of the resources count. We need all hands on deck here.”
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