Ex-Virginia House speaker files papers to run for governor

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox has filed paperwork with the state to run for governor next year, joining a small field of Republicans looking to enter the race.

Cox, a retired school teacher who has served in the House of Delegates since 1990, on Wednesday filed a “statement of organization” to establish a campaign committee. Cox said he will not formally enter the race until after the presidential election in November.

Cox, 63, was elected as speaker in 2018, but lost that role after Democrats won a majority in both the House and Senate in November. He announced in August that he was seriously considering a run for governor, citing what he called a “vacuum of leadership” created by Democrats.

Cox has criticized Democrats during the current special legislative session, which was called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and to consider dozens of criminal justice and police reforms in the wake of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Cox has characterized some of the police reforms as “anti-law enforcement.”

In a written statement released Thursday, Cox said the special session has convinced him “that Republicans not only need to put forward a strong candidate that can actually win statewide, but also a series of ideas and policies that will improve lives and livelihoods.”

Grant Fox, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said Cox has spent years blocking gun safety legislation and anti-discrimination laws.

“This gubernatorial run is just a sad way to regain some relevance after his failed leadership caused voters to give Democrats full control of the legislature last year, ending a 20-year Republican majority in the House of Delegates,” Fox said in a statement.

Cox has strong pro-business and anti-abortion credentials, but also helped push through Medicaid expansion, which conservatives opposed.

Firebrand conservative state Sen. Amanda Chase has announced she’s running for governor. Northern Virginia businessman Pete Snyder may also run.

Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. Several Democrats, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, have either announced they are running or have indicated they might. Virginia law blocks Gov. Northam from running for re-election.

Cox represents the 66th District, which includes Colonial Heights and parts of Chesterfield.

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