Republican Glenn Youngkin accused his political rival of sending people with tiki torches to his campaign event Friday in Charlottesville, mirroring the violent 2017 protest that took place there.
Mr. Youngkin, who is in a neck-and-neck race for governor with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, blamed the spectacle on his opponent’s no-holds-barred quest for victory.
“I think they work for Terry McAuliffe, and I’m sure he sent them,” Mr. Youngkin told reporters. “They’ll do anything to win, and he’s doing anything to win, and so he’s paying people to show up and act silly at our rallies.”
The McAuliffe campaign denied any knowledge or involvement in the tiki torch incident.
The small group of men and possibly a woman, wore white dress shirts, khaki pants and baseball caps. They carried tiki torches and stood outside Mr. Youngkin’s campaign bus.
At least one was a Black man.
Tiki torches were used by protesters at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. The protests included White nationalists and the protest devolved into a violent and deadly clash between protestors and counter-protestors.
Photos of the tiki torch crew in front of a Youngkin campaign bus quickly drew comments on social media. The social media comments included allegations that some of the people with tiki torches were Virginia Democratic Party officials and volunteers.
“Just for clarity — the McAuliffe campaign sent a bunch of his staffers to pretend to be tiki torch white supremacists at a Youngkin campaign event? Pathetic all the way around. And don’t absolve the staffers who did it. They aren’t kids. Dirty, shameless, pathetic politics,” tweeted conservative commentator Meghan McCain.
An NBC 29 reporter at the event said the group approached Mr. Youngkin’s bus when it arrived and they were saying, “We’re all in for Glenn.”
Mr. Youngkin stopped in Guadalajara, a Mexican restaurant in Charlottesville, as part of his bus tour.
Mr. Youngkin and Mr. McAuliffe are tied at 48%, according to a poll by Emerson College/Nexstar media.
The poll, conducted Oct. 22-23, surveyed 875 likely Virginia voters and carried an error margin of +/-3.2%.
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