VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — There’s a debate brewing over one of Glenn Youngkin's latest endorsements for Governor.
In a news release Saturday, Youngkin's campaign said the Hampton Roads Black Caucus (HRBC) endorsed him in the race against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, who previously served as governor from 2014 to 2018.
“We came together to offset the fake Hampton Roads Black Caucus,” said Gaylene Kanoyton of the Greater Hampton Roads Black Democrats.
Youngkin's campaign slammed McAuliffe's record on education, crime and the economy, saying he "has been disastrous for the Black community." The campaign also said Youngkin was the first Republican gubernatorial candidate the group has endorsed since forming in 2012.
Members of the Greater Hampton Roads Black Democrats, Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which consists of African American leaders elected to the Virginia General Assembly, and the Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia are raising concerns about the group, saying the group, and particularly its name, cause confusion in the community and does not represent them.
“So our purpose here is to set the record straight for our decades of service,” said Sen. Mamie Locke.
The groups doubled down on their support of Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic ticket, while also questioning the name and political leanings of the Hampton Roads Black Caucus.
Virginia State Senator and President pro tempore Louise Lucas, who is co-chairing McAuliffe's campaign, told 13News Now HRBC is a Republican organization deliberately calling itself a caucus to cause confusion with the other groups.
"The bottom line is they are a Republican-skewed organization," said Susan Hippen, of the GRHRD. "To use the name Hampton Roads Black Caucus [...] I'm not going to use fake news. I'm not going to use misinformation. I'm going to use lies."
"Are we working to uplift the Black community? Don't focus on the name," said Hampton Roads Black Caucus board member Ronald Taylor.
Taylor would only refer to himself as a board member. However, the group's registration with the Commonwealth, last updated in 2019, lists Taylor as President.
Taylor claims the nine-year-old group, is a ‘non-partisan, grassroots organization." He said the organization has endorsed various parties in the past.
“If we are a Republican operative, why would we endorse Democrats and others? It doesn't make sense,” said Taylor.
On its website, the HRBC said it works to increase the representation of elected officials who advocate and support legislation to help the Black community.
The group lists four initiatives it supports: Black-owned business growth, educational advancement, economic development and community development.
"We started because we wanted to give voices to those who couldn’t speak for themselves,” said Taylor. “We said we wanted to improve the African American community, education, economies and representation in the political process.”
In terms of Youngkin's endorsement, Taylor said the organization’s decisions are ‘member-driven.
"The members tell us who they endorse. Everyone gets one vote from the board down to the last person,” said Taylor.
Taylor said anyone can join the organization, but he could not provide a make-up of its membership. He also wouldn't say who is on the board, claiming board members signed a confidentiality agreement.
But the same state online record that lists Taylor as a board leader, also shows three other people, including Virginia Beach Republican Party Chairman William Curtis as the group's secretary.
Wednesday, Black lawmakers and Democratic groups claimed the organization cannot call itself a “caucus” because it is not associated with a legislative body.
“That is why we are a caucus. We are members of a body, the Virginia General Assembly. That is how we became a caucus,” said Sen. Locke.
“Our organization has no ill will with them. We are trying to work with them, to uplift the Black community. That’s what we’re trying to do," Taylor said.
When asked if the group is comprised of mostly Black people, Taylor said this:
“We need everybody to give support in order to move our initiative, and as long as they support those pillars, they can become members,” he said.