Youngkin endorses Brewer in GOP Senate race

Published 11:02 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has endorsed state Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, in her race against Hermie Sadler of Emporia for the new 17th Senate District’s Republican nomination.

Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee announced on May 18 that he had endorsed a slate of 19 Republican candidates. Six, including Brewer, are running in June 20 primary elections.

Youngkin had previously endorsed 45 incumbent Republicans, 44 of whom had already secured the party’s nomination, making his latest slate of endorsements among the rare instances where he’s backed candidates running in a contested GOP race.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I know this group of candidates – which includes experienced legislators, law enforcement officials, small business leaders and business executives – are committed to making Virginia the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family,” Youngkin said in his PAC’s news release.

“I am proud to have Governor Youngkin’s endorsement because he knows I am a battle tested conservative he can trust to deliver meaningful results for Virginia families and deliver the Virginia Senate to a Republican Majority in November,” Brewer said. “In the House of Delegates, I have worked hand-in-hand with Governor Youngkin to pass his legislative priorities and make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family. I look forward to continuing my work with Governor Youngkin in the Virginia Senate to deliver results that will cut taxes, create workforce development opportunities for our communities, and deliver meaningful results for rural Virginia.”

“The Richmond establishment has supported Emily Brewer since the day Hermie decided to run,” said Sadler’s campaign manager, Adam Pennings.

“This changes nothing about her support of biological men in girls bathrooms, supporting Obama’s gun grabbing policies, voting for higher taxes, and proudly touting herself as a moderate RINO,” Pennings added, referencing claims on an anti-Brewer website paid for by Sadler that brands Brewer as a “Republican in name only.” The site,, includes audio clips, allegedly from Brewer, describing herself as a “moderate RINO Republican.”

“The voters in the 17th District get to make this decision, and they want a conservative outsider that will put them first,” Pennings said. “With ‘We The People’s’ support, we will win on June 20th.”

Brewer Campaign Manager Nathanael Hirt called Sadler’s allegations a “disingenuous smear” and “desperate.”

“Emily has a conservative voting record that shows these claims to be absolutely false,” Hirt said. “Hermie cannot put one thing forward on his campaign that isn’t enriching himself and has no vision for rural Virginia. If he was even a Republican, he would acknowledge that Governor Youngkin made the right decision in supporting a battle tested conservative Emily Brewer. Mr. Sadler is running a campaign that is disrespectful to the way people in Western Tidewater and Southside prefer their candidates conduct themselves.”

“This nomination is a choice between Youngkin-endorsed conservative Emily Brewer and (Democratic State Sen.) Louise Lucas-supporting Hermie Sadler. It’s that simple,” Hirt added, referencing a 2020 Tweet from a suspended Twitter account belonging to Sadler in which the NASCAR driver-turned-businessman calls Lucas “a friend of mine for years” who’s “done a lot of good things for a lot of people,” though “we certainly don’t agree on everything politically.”

Youngkin’s endorsement follows a lawsuit alleging that Youngkin’s office had intervened in the method of selecting a Republican candidate for the 17th District.

The suit, filed in March by ousted Suffolk GOP Chairwoman Dawn Jones, alleged Youngkin and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, through their representatives, had unlawfully “strong-armed” the State Board of Elections into changing the race from a primary to a convention. Richmond Judge Claire Cardwell, on March 29, ordered that the race revert back to a primary, though the testimony at a hearing two days earlier didn’t delve into exactly how Youngkin’s and Miyares’ representatives had allegedly pressured Department of Elections Commissioner Susan Beals.

Sadler, in a March 10 email to The Smithfield Times, had contended the change to a convention would have placed Jones’ Brewer-supporting replacement, Steve Trent, in charge of overseeing the vote.

Prior to Cardwell’s ruling, the Republican Party had scheduled a June 3 convention at Paul D. Camp Community College’s Franklin campus. Conventions are party-run and open only to a set number of voting delegates per locality, as opposed to primaries, which are state-run and open to all voters districtwide regardless of party affiliation. 

The 17th District encompasses Isle of Wight, Southampton, Greenville and Brunswick counties, the cities of Suffolk, Franklin and emporia, and part of Dinwiddie County. It was created in 2021 when Virginia’s Supreme Court adopted new legislative districts based on the 2020 Census.

Brewer, who currently serves in the House of Delegates as its 64th District representative, was moved into a new, more competitive 84th House District spanning the Isle of Wight-Suffolk border that a Virginia Public Access Project analysis predicts will break narrowly for Democrats based on its share of votes from the 2021 governor’s election. VPAP’s analysis predicts the 17th District could lean Republican or Democratic based on the last two governor’s races.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 19 at 3:58 p.m. to include statements from Sadler Campaign Manager Adam Pennings and Brewer Campaign Manager Nathanael Hirt.