FILE - Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox

Virginia Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights

(The Center Square) – Former Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox announced his candidacy Tuesday in the state’s 2021 governor’s race.

“I am running for Governor because I cannot watch the Virginia we’ve built slip away,” Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said in a statement. “The timeless principles upon which our representative democracy were built are under attack, unchecked one-party Democratic control in Richmond is tearing our state apart, and people feel like their leaders are not listening. We have to fight back against the cancel culture and the elitism, against misguided collectivist policies, and against a worldview that puts the government in charge of every facet of our lives.”

In a campaign video released Tuesday morning, Cox said free speech and the freedom to worship is being replaced with a cancel culture that mandates conformity with “big city elites.” He said state decisions should be made through dialogue and communication with public input rather than chaos and destruction in the streets, and he accused Democratic leadership in Richmond of tearing the state apart.

“We are fighting back so we can lead forward out of this pandemic and a self-inflicted recession, lead forward to an economy where people can do more than just pay the bills, back to a place where problems are solved through dialogue and communication, and lead forward to a Virginia that is the best place to do business, where our kids leave school with an affordable degree or a valuable credential, and where people in government do what they say they’re going to do,” Cox said in the statement.

Cox has been a member of the General Assembly for more than 20 years and has served as majority whip, majority leader and speaker. After court-ordered redistricting took him out of his safe district, Cox won reelection in a Democratic-leaning district that Hillary Clinton carried by 5 points and Tim Kaine carried by 14 points. His campaign is touting this success as evidence he can win in areas other Republicans are unable to and his history of promoting tax cuts and deregulation.

In the Republican primary, Cox will face a few other candidates, most notably Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield. Chase is a staunch conservative who has picked fights with establishment and moderate Republicans.

Virginia law prohibits a governor from serving for two consecutive terms, so Gov. Ralph Northam cannot run for reelection. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is running for the position, and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe also has filed paperwork to run.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.