EXCLUSIVE: Former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox said he is the "most electable" Republican gubernatorial candidate to beat Democrats in the state’s general election in November, touting his experience and record in an exclusive interview with Fox News Thursday.
Cox made his final pitch to voters, telling Fox News he has "the experience" to "hit the ground running."
Republicans in the commonwealth will select their gubernatorial nominee at the GOP convention on May 8.
"I am the proven conservative in the race," Cox told Fox News, touting his efforts in Virginia’s House of Delegates to "defend pro-life and the Second Amendment," and his successful efforts to block gun control bills proposed by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is the front-runner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary this cycle.
"A lot of candidates say I’ll do X, Y and Z, but I feel I’ve actually done that," Cox told Fox News.
Cox said one of the biggest issues in the race is education, as students in the state have been kept home from the classroom amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cox, a retired 30-year classroom teacher, has advocated for the reopening of Virginia schools, and has proposals to make up for the months of "learning lost," including "intense tutoring" for students by teachers, substitute teachers and student teachers. Cox told Fox News he has volunteered to participate in that program to tutor students.
"McAuliffe’s biggest platform is going to be education," he explained. "And who better to go up against him than a 30-year classroom teacher, and someone who has been the vice-chair of the budget committee, and someone who has been on the K-12 committee who can really debate those issues with him much, much better than anyone else in the race can."
Cox, who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1990, touted his years of experience compared to the rest of the Republican field, most of whom have never held elected office.
The crowded GOP primary field includes entrepreneur Pete Snyder, Sergio de la Peña, a retired Army officer; Glenn Youngkin, who retired as co-CEO last year from the investment firm the Carlyle Group; and conservative state Sen. Amanda Chase.
"Governors in Virginia get one, four-year term," Cox told Fox News. "You have to know what you’re doing on day one."
He added: "You need to know how to make really good appointments, hit the ground running, effecting change, quickly. I have the experience to do that, much more than the other candidates."
Cox also touted his record in the House of Delegates, and his ability to work in a bipartisan manner on critical policy issues, should he be elected governor. Cox outlined examples of "cobbling votes together on the other side," but vowed his bipartisanship would not affect his stance on key issues.
"This doesn’t mean, at all, that I will compromise my principles on tax cuts and regulations, but working on mental health issues, veterans’ issues, I am sure I can put coalitions together to get things passed," Cox explained.
But as for Virginia voters, Cox said "they want someone who is going to be a leader, who is going to be effective, and who is going to be authentic."
"I can be very effective, knowing how all of this works," he said. "I feel I’m the most experienced, and the most electable candidate to actually beat Democrats in November."
Cox added that "that’s gotta be the goal of Republicans—we have to end this one party, Democrat control."
"We also have to show our position on how we’ll lead in public safety issues, education and how we’re going to lead out of this pandemic," he said. "I feel very strongly I have the experience to do that."
Virginia hasn't had a Republican governor since 2014 and hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 2004.
McAuliffe appears to lead the pack of Democratic candidates, which includes state lawmakers Lee Carter and Jennifer McClellan, former state lawmaker Jennifer Carroll Foy, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Democrats will decide their gubernatorial candidate in a primary election on June 8.