Former congressional candidate Leon Benjamin is founding a new political non-profit focused on helping Republicans retake Virginia House of Delegates seats. Virginians for America First will focus on grassroots training and education to retake control of the House in the 2021 elections by initially focusing on districts that recently flipped from Republican to Democrat control.
“I have never seen so many people scared and wearied from the 2020 Election results,” Benjamin said in a press release. “It is incumbent to us to regain ground and formulate a blueprint for state and local races that will ensure voter confidence in elections moving forward and allow Virginia to lead the charge in Fair and Just Elections in 2021.”
Benjamin told The Virginia Star, “I believe the fight is in our local and state districts in Virginia. Politics begins at home.”
Benjamin is a pastor and the former chair of the Richmond GOP. He is being aided in the launch by Mark Lloyd, who said, “Our primary purpose is to educate voters on the America-first agenda, which obviously is in the title, but there’s a lot of voters out there that are not fully aware of what the America-first agenda actually looks like.”
Lloyd said that agenda includes an emphasis on American sovereignty with focus on policies like secure borders and elections free of foreign interference. It also includes an emphasis on free and fair trade, and an emphasis on protecting the rule of law. Other issues, including pro-life policies, fit into that framework.
Lloyd said, “It’s been sort of nebulous, so we want to drill down and define that, and then we want to let people know who supports that and who doesn’t.”
To regain control of the House, Republicans only need to flip six seats, but VFAF wants to have a buffer in case Democrats flip other seats. VFAF will be focused on voter outreach activities including rallies, door knocking, and other grassroots activity.
In the 2019 election when Democrats took the House, the Republican Party of Virginia had no candidate for over 20 House districts. The RPV faces financial woes and has struggled to support local candidates.
“That problem in Virginia has been going on for years. There’s lots of things that can be done. First of all, the Republican Party is going to have to start growing a bigger tent,” Lloyd said.
He said the RPV establishment has been more focused on building careers and influence than on reaching out to individual voters. For example, he said the RPV didn’t succeed in fully capturing the energy and financial resources from the Tea Party movement in the past.
Lloyd said, “They’ve created this almost top-down, ‘Do as we say. If we want your opinion we’ll tell you what your opinion is.’ And that problem has gotten worse and worse.”
Conservative activists face social pressure and may have to miss work, while progressive activists are socially accepted and often find careers in activism, Lloyd said. VFAF aims to start addressing that problem by reaching out to individual Virginia conservatives to show them they are not alone. For now, the project is being funded through small-dollar donations, according to Lloyd. To donate or volunteer, visit virginiansforamericafirst.com
Benjamin said, “It’s about saving Virginia so we can save America. I just want to reiterate that this is a grassroots effort. And going out and reaching out to some of the people that normally the Republican Party doesn’t reach out to and I’m very excited about that.”