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Former House Speaker Kirk Cox, of Colonial Heights, 'seriously' weighing run for governor
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Former House Speaker Kirk Cox, of Colonial Heights, 'seriously' weighing run for governor

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Former House Speaker Kirk Cox — a Republican delegate from Colonial Heights who lost the speakership in a wave of Democratic victories across the state last year — is “seriously” weighing a run for governor.

“After the policies put in place by Democrats this year, the vacuum of leadership during this health and economic crisis, and the violence and destruction in our streets, it’s clear we need credible and steady leadership,” Cox wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.

Cox, a retired government teacher who has served in the House since 1990, joins a short list of Republicans interested in the party’s nomination next year for the highest office in Virginia — a state where no Republican has won a statewide contest since 2009.

Last year, Cox was at the center of a brutal election season for Republicans, who lost control of both of chambers of the legislature to Democrats, ending his two-year tenure as speaker.

Cox said that his decision on a run won’t come until after the November elections, “out of respect for the candidates on the ballot” this fall, including President Donald Trump and Daniel Gade, an Army veteran challenging Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Cox’s looming decision was first reported by The Washington Post.

There is only one declared candidate for the 2021 GOP nomination for governor: Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, who is running to the right of the party. Former Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, is weighing a run, with an announcement planned for September or October.

Cox is a socially conservative Republican who prides himself on a record of increased education spending and compromise on issues like the expansion of Medicaid.

Court-mandated redistricting, meant to correct for racial gerrymandering by the GOP in 2010, made Cox’s longtime GOP district swing statistically in favor of Democrats ahead of the 2019 House elections.

Cox nevertheless prevailed against Democrat Sheila Bynum-Coleman, a business owner, with a margin on 1,304 votes. He now serves in the bluest House district held by a Republican.

Cox, a formidable fundraiser who would bring that asset to the governor’s race, spent nearly $1 million to defend his seat.

Heavy spending and campaigning to hold his own district, meanwhile, hamstrung his ability to aid less-powerful GOP candidates. Republicans lost their two-seat majority in the House to Democrats, who now hold 55 of the 100 seats in the House.

Cox’s statement

Here is Cox’s full statement: “I have been hearing from people who want me to consider running for governor, something I would not have even thought about eight months ago.

“After the policies put in place by Democrats this year, the vacuum of leadership during this health and economic crisis, and the violence and destruction in our streets, it’s clear we need credible and steady leadership.

“That leadership certainly isn’t coming from Governor Northam, whether you look at the failures on coronavirus testing, the parole board illegally and secretly releasing violent criminals early, or the mismanagement of how to best send our kids back to school this fall.

“I’ll be candid. I’m 62 years old. The easiest thing for me and Julie to do would be to spend the next 20 years going on walks at the park and visiting our boys at the beach, tweeting we told you so as Democrats drive up our taxes, chase investment and business out of our Commonwealth, adopt policies that lead to public employee strikes that hurt our kids, and reverse the policies that made Virginia one of the safest states in the nation.

“But that’s just not who we are. So, yes, I am seriously looking at a run for Governor.

“Out of respect for the candidates on the ballot this November and because we need to win back congressional seats, defeat Mark Warner, and defeat Joe Biden, I am not going to launch a gubernatorial campaign now. I’m going to keep listening to Virginians, talking with friends and people from across our Commonwealth, and working to support the constitutional amendment on redistricting this fall.”

mleonor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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