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Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin to woo national GOP megadonors at retreat



RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin is about to treat dozens of GOP megadonors to some posh Southern hospitality, putting them up for two days at Virginia Beach’s grande dame historic hotel on his political action committee’s dime.

He did the same a year ago, gifting billionaires with two-day stays at a Charlottesville-area resort boasting mountain views, fine dining — and facetime with the political newcomer teasing a presidential bid.

The mid-October timing for Youngkin’s second “Red Vest Retreat” is a little awkward, with Nov. 7 General Assembly races just three weeks away and the window for launching a credible 2024 White House bid rapidly closing.

Youngkin has insisted that he is focused entirely on Virginia in the run-up to elections that will decide if he can enact his conservative agenda, including a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions. With the House and Senate closely divided and all 140 seats on the ballot, both chambers are up for grabs. No one doubts that Youngkin wants those wins, even if his eye is really on the White House, since losses in his own state would make it tough to pitch himself to the nation.

The Oct. 17-18 gathering at the Historic Cavalier Hotel could serve both purposes, even if it costs the PAC six figures up front in lodging and catering as was the case for last year’s retreat at Keswick Hall, since the well-wooed donors might more than make up for that later with big-dollar donations.

Va. Dems outraise GOP, but Youngkin’s White House buzz helps close gap


But the optics are tricky since Youngkin will spend precious time in the state election’s homestretch hobnobbing with out-of-state donors, some with no clear interest in Virginia. News of the event broke this week in a report claiming that some attendees planned to use the second annual Red Vest Retreat — named for the governor’s signature zip-up campaign attire — as an opportunity to “draft” Youngkin for president.

“Alarmed Republicans are preparing to draft Glenn Youngkin,” read the headline on an opinion piece that Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News, wrote for The Washington Post. Republican donors unhappy with former president Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field, Costa wrote, plan to use the retreat as a chance to “push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race.”

Officials with Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC did not respond to requests for comment. The only public response was a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from PAC chief Dave Rexrode: “As we’ve said many times before, @GlennYoungkin is solely focused on our Virginia legislative elections … which are already underway.”

The post linked to Costa’s piece, allowing Rexrode to spread word of the alleged “draft” effort even as he swatted it down.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, reacted sharply on X.

“Time for another RINO stooge in a vest to represent the billionaire donor class now that they realize that after 5 or 6 ‘reboots’ DeSantis clearly doesn’t have it,” he tweeted, referring to Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who until recent campaign struggles was considered Trump’s most formidable challenger.

In an interview, Trump senior campaign adviser Chris LaCivita described any draft-Youngkin effort as the death throes of the Never Trump movement.


“This is clearly one of the stages of grief for a handful of donors whose last shiny toy broke,” he said, referring to DeSantis.

LaCivita also seized on a word — “optionality” — that Costa’s piece said Youngkin likes to use when talking about the choices he faces for the state and his own political career.

“I’ve got your optionality,” LaCivita tweeted alongside a photo of a hand-cranked grinder shredding hunks of red meat.

Invitations with a watercolor rendering of the Cavalier went out to super-donors across the country over the last month. A copy obtained by The Washington Post notes that the invitations, extended by the governor and first lady Suzanne Youngkin, are non-transferrable. It says nothing about the purpose of the gathering.

The hotel was built in the Roaring Twenties and lured Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and many presidents over its near-century. It recently underwent a $400 million facelift to restore it to its Jazz Age opulence.

Developer and hotelier Bruce Thompson said it’s not clear yet how many people will attend. The hotel has 600 rooms on its beachfront property but only 85 in the historic portion, where he said retreat guests would likely prefer to lodge.

“I know that they were concerned that we may not be large enough to be able to handle the group [in the historic portion],” he said. “There’s a lot of folks that have indicated that they would like to attend something that might be influential with respect to the governor’s decision … [regarding] what he might do in the future.”


Among those planning to attend is veteran Republican fundraiser Bobbie Kilberg, president emeritus of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. She and her husband, Bill, want to hear about the legislative elections, which she thinks are critical to Youngkin fulfilling his agenda and “protecting his legacy.”

But the couple will not spend time on any presidential arm-twisting. They support former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for president, whom Kilberg admires for “forcibly taking on Trump.” The couple held a fundraiser for him at their home Sept. 21, raising more than $150,000, she said.

“Chris Christie is a declared candidate and we are strong supporters,” she said. “I cannot comment on what anybody else may or may not be want to focus on at that retreat. But Bill and I are focusing on the state.”

Michael Scherer contributed to this report.

Source: Washington Post


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