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GOP Entrepreneur Enters Virginia Governor’s Race

Pete Snyder headshot
Pete Snyder in a 2013 campaign photo.

Businessman Pete Snyder became the fourth Republican to formally announce a bid for governor on Tuesday, casting himself as a get-things-done outsider.

In an interview, Snyder took aim at “career politicians” from both parties. That includes Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) a long-serving lawaker who is running for the Republican nomination. 

“A lot of the ‘woke’ crowd, they talk about systemic problems in Virginia,” Snyder said. “I see a systemic problem. It's systemic incompetence that has come from the ruling class in Richmond, from the governor, and from a lot of the career politicians.”

Snyder found early business success when he established the social media marketing firm New Media Strategies in 1999. He later parlayed that experience into other realms as an angel investor in startups and board member for Richmond-based Ledbury Clothing.

Snyder is not new to politics, however. He cut his political chops as a pollster for then-New York Mayor Rudy Guliani in 1997. Snyder unsuccessfully ran for the GOP lieutenant governor’s nomination in 2013 and served as chair of Republican Ed Gilesspie’s 2017 campaign against Gov. Ralph Northam. He’s also a contributor to Fox News.

Virginia Republicans have not won a statewide race since 2009. They’ll choose their nominee via a convention under circumstances that remain unclear thanks to in-fighting on their top committee. Snyder finds himself in a crowded field of at least four candidates who’ve formally announced, including Cox, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian), and Sergio de la Peña, a retired Army colonel who served in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Snyder spoke favorably of the former president, saying his most lasting legacy would be a strong economy that ended abruptly amid pandemic-induced lockdowns. He dismissed accusations that Trump fomented the riots in Washington, D.C.

“I think the violence came from the people that actually did it,” Snyder said.

Snyder said his top priority would be reopening schools. He was also highly critical of Democrats’ handling of this summer’s racial justice protests. Ledbury's Broad Street store was looted in early June. Snyder claimed that “four woke white kids in their [Nike] Air Force Ones” led the charge -- a reminder he said, of Democrats' permissiveness and the need to undo gun control laws they passed last year.

Snyder pointed to his Virginia 30 Day Fund -- a nonprofit Snyder set up offering forgivable loans during the pandemic -- as proof he could win support in Virginia’s Black community. Roughly 90% of Black voters cast ballots for President Joe Biden last year, according to exit polling from CNN. Snyder said 35% of the 850 small businesses who received loans were minority-owned, and said he’d partnered with the Fairfax chapter of the NAACP on the project. 

“You need to actually be active in the community, have a dialogue and actually add value to their lives before you just ask for a vote,” Snyder said.

Cox welcomed Snyder into the fray, saying in a statement that “it is my firm belief that competition is a good thing, foundational to the success of our representative democracy.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia was less enthusiastic. Manuel Bonder, a spokesman for the party, pointed to comments Snyder made opposing Medicaid expansion as proof Snyder had disregarded public health policies that made the commonwealth safer during the pandemic.

"Pete’s running as a far right conservative and outspoken Trump supporter who is out of touch with Virginians’ values,” Bonder said in a statement.