Candidates for Virginia lieutenant governor square off over gay judge

State Sen. Bryce Reeves at center, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, right, and Virginia secretary of public safety Brian Moran, left
State Sen. Bryce Reeves, center, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, right, and Virginia secretary of public safety Brian Moran, left, at a press conference in 2016. (Photo: Steve Helber/AP)

The already contentious Republican primary race for lieutenant governor in Virginia continued to escalate this week when State Sen. Bryce Reeves attacked a rival in the race for supporting the state’s first openly gay judge.

The flier sent by Reeves’ campaign tells voters that if they support President Trump, they should not vote for State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, because she voted to approve the nomination of District Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland and was the “only Republican to vote for special rights for gays and transgenders,” referencing a 2016 antidiscrimination bill.

The controversial mailer also accuses Holtzman Vogel of “opposing Trump priorities” and “killing” a bill that would have required women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion, causing her to be “cheered” by liberal news anchor Rachel Maddow.

In an email to the Washington Post, the Reeves campaign did not apologize for sending the mailer. Nor has Reeves himself backed down. In response to Yahoo News’ request for comment, the candidate said:

“As a former Army Ranger, police officer, and a Christian, my life is centered around fighting for the dignity of the human person and their God-given talents and rights. My criticism of Ms. Vogel is that she voted to put a liberal on the court, which is consistent with her liberal positions on the Second Amendment and illegal immigration.”

Despite the attacks from Reeves, Holtzman Vogel’s campaign manager, Pat Trueman, told Yahoo News that the senator will not change her position on Judge Thorne-Begland’s appointment.

“Jill Vogel believes discrimination is wrong and violates the Republican Creed’s call for ‘equal justice for all,'” Trueman said in an email. “Senator Vogel based her vote on Judge Thorne-Beglund’s legal background.”

In addition to bringing national attention to the race, Reeves’ mailer also brought criticism from within his own party. State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, Virginia attorney general candidate John Adams and Rep. Scott Taylor all spoke out against the mailer.

“I am very upset by the mailer I saw,” Taylor told the Washington Post. “Gay bashing and discrimination is unacceptable and the wrong message for the people of our party, the people of Virginia, and the people of America.”

State Delegate Glenn Davis, who is running in the primary, also attacked the mailer in a video on his campaign website.

“If you can’t win on policy and you have to win on stuff like this, you just shouldn’t be running,” Davis said.

Additionally, the mailer cost Reeves the support of popular conservative blogger Jim Hoeft of Bearing

“But, as conservatives, our mindset regarding who is selected as a judge or a bureaucrat is based on finding the most capable, qualified, talented, and overall exceptional people to do the necessary job of limited governance,” Hoeft wrote on his blog on Wednesday. “As a public, we should care less about their sexual orientation and more about them doing the job well.”

Virginia voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to choose among candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

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