Why a firebrand Virginia Republican says it’s time to divorce Trump

‘I should have said this two years ago’

By: - November 9, 2022 2:40 pm

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – SEPTEMBER 25: A man cheers after a prayer before the arrival of President Donald Trump during a campaign rally at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport on September 25, 2020 in Newport News, Virginia. President Trump is scheduled to announce his nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday afternoon at the White House. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Virginia Del. Tim Anderson has been labeled a Trump-style Republican for his attention-getting combativeness and staunchly conservative politics. But as the GOP surveyed the disappointment of a surprisingly lackluster performance in the midterm elections, Anderson is the first Virginia Republican to call bluntly for a full breakup with former President Donald Trump.

“He will lose Virginia. Just like he’s lost two other times. And he’s going to bring us all down with him,” Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “I should have said this two years ago.”

Anderson, an attorney and gun shop owner with a knack for politically charged lawsuits tied to conservative causes, said he and many others in the GOP have long felt privately that Trump was bad news for the party. By going public now, Anderson said he hopes other Republicans will also find their voice as Trump prepares a third presidential bid.

“The voters, when they’re looking at all the chaos on the Democrat side, they look over at us and they say, ‘No thank you, we’re not going to vote for the Trump people,'” Anderson said. “I’m going to be the first person to come up and say: ‘No more.’ Leaders lead. And I’m trying to lead.”

Anderson, who recently led an unsuccessful legal effort to block private bookstores from selling two sexually explicit books to minors, said he believes a majority of Republicans are not Trumpists, but “Reagan people.” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, he said, understands Virginia voters better than Trump and set the state GOP on a path to attract voters to its side. But the party’s ability to win majorities in the Virginia General Assembly next year, he said, will be in jeopardy if Trump remains the face of the party.

“There’s no chance we’re going to sway light blue Democrats our way ever again if we’re going to be wearing red Make America Great Again hats,” Anderson said. “It’s just never going to happen.”

Republican leaders in Virginia, including Youngkin, have been largely silent on the midterm results. Youngkin spent much of the 2022 election cycle campaigning for 15 Republican gubernatorial candidates across the country, but only four of those candidates had won according to unofficial results as of Wednesday afternoon.

Youngkin also campaigned heavily for the Republican candidates in Virginia’s three competitive congressional races. The GOP won just one of those races as state Sen. Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in the 2nd District, the seat easiest for Republicans to flip.

“Tonight Virginia Democrats won big,” Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said in a statement Tuesday night. “After a difficult redistricting, our Congressional Democrats ran hard-fought campaigns across the state, defeated Glenn Youngkin-style Republican extremism, and showed that Democratic values win.”

After predicting a red wave that didn’t materialize, Youngkin had no public events scheduled Wednesday and has been largely silent on social media apart from routine congratulatory messages to Republican winners.

Trump’s drag on the Virginia GOP was obvious in 2017 and 2019, when Republicans’ 66-seat majority in the state House of Delegates vanished over two cycles and Democrats eventually won full control of state government in 2019 for the first time in two decades. Few Republican officeholders in the state have been openly critical of Trump, though many share Anderson’s views privately.

Anderson went so far as to volunteer his anti-Trump stance on his Facebook page, where his followers had sharply different responses.

“I like you Tim but I think this is a cheap shot and not necessarily true. The head of the snake is the pathetic National Republican Leadership!” wrote one commenter.

“To blame Trump for everything is nothing more than what the democrats do,” wrote another.

Others thanked Anderson for sharing an unvarnished opinion.

“It’s a rarity now days for any politician to take a stand especially early in the process,” one person responded. “Trump running again is not good for our country and not good for the Republican Party.”

Anderson is running in a redrawn coastal House district this year that includes fellow Del. Rob Bloxom, R-Accomack, putting the two delegates on track for a GOP nomination fight next year. The new district is more Republican than the one Anderson narrowly flipped from Democratic control in 2021.

Anderson said he regrets being “unable to say no” when asked if he’s a Trump Republican while knocking doors in Virginia.

“Now I can,” he said. “Because Donald Trump needs to be in our rearview mirror.”

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Contact him at [email protected]

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