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Youngkin defends campaign support of 2020 election denier Kari Lake

Governor Glenn Youngkin gestures during an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks during an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Friday. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday defended his decision to campaign for Kari Lake, an Arizona Republican running for governor who has falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

In an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Washington Examiner reporter David Drucker asked Youngkin whether he’s comfortable stumping for candidates who have disputed the outcome of that vote.

“I am comfortable supporting Republican candidates,” Youngkin said. “And we don't agree on everything. I mean, I have said that I firmly believe that Joe Biden was elected president.” 

Youngkin went on to say that he wished Biden hadn’t been elected and attacked the president’s policies on immigration, the economy and foreign policy. 

As a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, Youngkin refused to say whether he believed the 2020 election was legitimate. He relented days after he secured the nomination, but continued to walk a tightrope on the issue. He initially refused to say whether he would have certified the 2020 election had he been in Congress before eventually saying he would have done so. Youngkin also campaigned alongside state Sen. Amanda Chase, who has called for a 50-state audit of the 2020 election results.

Courts tossed more than 60 challenges to the 2020 election results brought by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

The governor’s busy fall travel schedule has stoked speculation he might be laying the groundwork for a presidential bid. His travels include a Thursday night event for Kansas gubernatorial hopeful and current attorney general Derek Schmidt, a rally on Sept. 27 for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the stop next month for Lake.

The governor argued during The Texas Tribune interview that “a failure of leadership” was the biggest problem facing the U.S., singling out Biden in particular. He also hit on issues outside the usual rhetoric of Virginia governors, repeatedly criticizing a “national crisis” along the U.S. border with Mexico and claiming “every state is a border state” because of the flow of fentanyl from the south.

Asked if politicians had a responsibility to lower the political temperature, Youngkin said his main goal was to deliver on the agenda he’d set out in his campaign. He added that “calling people names and trying to score points on Twitter and Facebook is inconsistent with that.”

He declined to say if he would back Trump in a potential third bid for the White House. 

Youngkin also weighed in on new proposed model policies for transgender students, arguing they were designed to protect parent’s rights and withstand legal scrutiny. Some legal scholars and Democratic lawmakers, however, have argued the policies are on shaky legal grounds.

“I don't really believe this is controversial,” Youngkin said. “I think that there is an extreme group of folks that have tried to embed a scare tactic here as opposed to reading the regulations.”

The proposed guidelines, which are not yet enacted, have led to a political firestorm, sparking debates among Virginia’s Congressional delegation, parents and students. The student-led LGTBQ+ activist group The Pride Liberation Project is planning a statewide student walkout on Tuesday to protest the proposals. 

Youngkin also seemed to distance himself from a proposal from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to ban abortions past 15 weeks. 

“States in fact have the ability to deal with these issues based on their voters' desires,” Youngkin said. He noted he’s working on legislation at the state level that would propose similar restrictions.

In a statement earlier this week, Gianni Snidle, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, accused Youngkin of neglecting his state duties to promote “radical” candidates.

“Governor Youngkin has made it clear that he would rather campaign for extremists like Kari Lake and Paul LePage than do his job as Virginia’s governor,” Snidle said.