Many view Glenn Youngkin’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2021 as a referendum on the early Biden presidency and the Democrats’ radical leftward shift. Others see it as a signal that voters will get behind candidates who take on cultural issues. While all of these factors may have played a role, David Gordon tells a much longer story about how Republicans won in Virginia on November 2, 2021.
The Virginia GOP now controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, and one chamber of the state legislature. Democrats had a trifecta after flipping both houses of the legislature in the 2019 election. Following that election, Gordon decided to take a strategic approach to make the Virginia GOP a party that could attract serious, intelligent, capable candidates, run them, and win. He founded The Virginia Project (TVP) with the mission to create a 21st-century party infrastructure capable of competing effectively and rolling back Democrat Party influence.
Once Gordon realized that Republicans failed to field candidates in 25% of races with a Democrat incumbent in 2019, he made running a candidate in every race a mission point. Other objectives of TVP included taking a complete accounting of GOP performance in every election district and providing a baseline level of support for every GOP candidate in the state. The group also wanted to share tools and best practices to optimize branding, marketing, messaging, voter outreach, and mobilization throughout the state. The goal was to disrupt the Democrats’ narratives and force them to play defense.
After the 2020 election, Gordon realized that to put Democrats on their heels, TVP would have to go on offense. There was no way to verify the vote in Virginia after nearly 60% of Virginians voted early or by mail. The window for challenging congressional elections closed in 25 days. There was no point in fielding candidates across the state without shoring up election integrity. So with the help of Ned Jones, Gordon and TVP set about securing Virginia’s elections.
The group forced the implementation of voter roll management laws already on the books. TVP ensured the process was logged, transparent, and consistent in every Virginia county and removed a half million bad entries from the voter rolls statewide. Then TVP made sure a system was in place for 2021 that had what Gordon refers to as “Eyes on Every Ballot.”
Challenging elections after the fact proved fruitless at the state and national levels in 2020. The key would be to challenge violations on the spot rather than post facto. TVP prepared and delivered training for election observers. The Virginia GOP went from 33% to 95% observer coverage. Gordon said, “The worse Biden gets, the more people volunteer. A good look in some of the disputed states in 2020 also motivated people to get involved.”
The success in recruitment and training allowed the GOP to challenge every suspected violation on election night 2021. As a Twitter thread from TVP noted, “[DNC lawyer Marc] Elias’ now-legendary losing streak started with us stopping him. We fought for and won every legal stipulation needed to enforce our rights.” TVP went on to address other serious election concerns unique to 2020 after winning in 2021.
First, they made what is commonly known as “Zuckerbucks” illegal. “The goosing of Democrat turnout through an alleged charity – with which they still lost in 2021 – is gone. This alone is a big deficit for VA Dems to make up,” TVP declared on Twitter. Governor Youngkin will also appoint new members to the electoral boards. Gordon says as terms end, the boards will shift from majority Democrat to majority Republican during Youngkin’s term. The Republican House of Delegates is now responsible for confirming appointed judges. Gordon believes this will reduce the influence of politics on election rulings.
TVP also helped make ballot-counting more transparent. Jones won the right to real-time transparency on ballots dropped in drop boxes. According to Gordon, the new process will allow harvesting to be detected and challenged within 24 hours. Eventually, the plan is to eliminate it altogether. In 2020, all absentee ballots got processed at the Central Absentee Precinct (CAP). Now, the CAP must provide a precinct breakdown, so potential fraud is easier to detect.
The TVP Twitter thread claims, “We did unbelievable damage to the Democrat machine in Virginia, they’re not coming back from it, and it’s only going to get worse.” While some of the items addressed by TVP are specific to Virginia’s laws and election procedures, Gordon believes it is planning and strategic discipline that allowed the group to achieve its objectives. Republicans in Virginia can now run candidates statewide and have confidence in the election process.
The Virginia Project is a testament to what a small, determined group can do when they make a strategic plan and work through that plan. A candidate in every district, an eye on every ballot, and using political power to make sweeping changes once Republicans got the mandate are all part of turning Virginia back into a battleground state where a legitimate battle of ideas can occur. GOP groups in other states could learn a lot about how to succeed from Gordon and his organization.