FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County Republicans held a dinner in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 208th birthday Thursday night that included a lieutenant governor candidate forum and keynote presentation from Jim Martin, founder of the 60Plus Association and a former member of President George W. Bush’s health and human services transition team.

The event began with remarks from John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Committee of Virginia. He stressed the importance of the 2017 Virginia elections in relation to the political direction of the state. He spoke out against Democratic gubernatorial candidates Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello, condemning their progressive ideology, saying that they “might as well be running for governor of California” and calling them “unhinged.”

“Neither of them support our coal industry,” he said. “Neither of them support school choice. Neither of them support anything other than the left-wing, Bernie Sanders progressive agenda. Is that Virginia?”

Whitbeck’s remarks were followed by Martin’s presentation, which centered around rights for senior citizens. He also advocated for the repeal of the death tax. Former president George W. Bush introduced Martin via a pre-recorded video that recounted time the two had spent together in politics and the effect Martin, whom Bush called a mentor of his, had on his political career.

Following Martin’s speech, the candidate forum began. Virginia’s three Republican lieutenant governor candidates, Jill Vogel, Bryce Reeves and Glenn Davis all gave brief speeches and then answered three questions each, all pulled from audience questions.

Vogel, a sitting Virginia senator and ethics lawyer, touted her record when it came to defending the second amendment and also advocated for deregulation to increase economic prosperity in the state.

“As somebody who has seen the harm that government can do, I’m here to say that it’s time, in 2017, for us to put forward transformational leaders who will do it in Virginia and take it back and protect our individual liberties and our personal freedoms,” she said. “If you want to know what someone will do in office, I can only say, ask what they’ve done. … I’m the only person running for lieutenant governor who has an A-plus rating by the NRA and 100 percent by the VCDL. Nobody in the Senate of Virginia has put in more second amendment bills than I have.”

Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, took to the podium after Vogel to deliver his remarks, which centered around improving education, supporting small business and using the momentum generated by the Trump movement to affect political change in Virginia.

“That American dream is slipping away,” he said. “We don’t celebrate those who create opportunity anymore. We actually take more from them and give it to those who think government entitlement is a career choice. I’m running to do exactly what Donald Trump did in Washington and that’s restore the American dream because I believe, as Americans, one of the most important things we can do, what we have to do, is return that American dream to the next generation.”

Reeves, also a sitting senator who represents Virginia’s 17th district, followed Davis’ remarks. Reeves explained his long track record of service to America as an Army Ranger, law enforcement agent and politician. He said the safety and security of Virginians are chief among his priorities.

“In serving as your senator in the 17th, (I have been) working on one mission and one goal,” he said. “And that’s to make sure that you are safe and secure in your homes both physically and fiscally. I’ve been doing that the last five years. … God delivered us that (presidential) election. The American people had enough.”

Following their opening remarks, the candidates proceeded to answer audience questions on a variety of topics, from Medicaid expansion to economic development to immigration.

When asked about Medicaid expansion, Vogel said, “I am 100 percent against Medicaid expansion. … I voted against it and here’s the deal – in the last 10 years, the cost to states for Medicaid expansion has gone up 71 percent. It is consuming our budgets at a rate greater than you can possibly bear. The tradeoff is that it’s coming out of K12, it’s coming out of transportation, it’s coming out of public safety. It is consuming our budgets.”

Davis was asked about education in the state and how he plans to improve it if elected lieutenant governor.

“I spent five years on the City Council before I came into the Virginia House of Delegates and one of the reasons why I came was because of education,” he said. “You’re right, teachers don’t make what they should be making. We’re losing teachers not only to other states but to the private sector as well. … The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough money in Richmond, we have plenty, we’re just not prioritizing it properly.”

Davis concluded his answer by declaring his support for school choice and advocated for charter and private schools.

The question and answer portion of the forum was concluded by Reeves. He was asked what his plans would be to bring business to the commonwealth.

“First and foremost, we’ve had a governor (Terry McAuliffe) that tried to bring every business from every other country in the world here and the reality is I’m a business owner,” he said. “I understand what the challenges are. … We need to do a little bit more to shore up our Virginia businesses first, put a little effort into those folks and help those folks. … We don’t really need to add any businesses in Virginia, we have plenty here, we just need to let them grow.”

Election Day for the Republican primaries is June 13. The general election is Nov. 7.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or