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by Brandon Jarvis
All of the Republican candidates except for one, former House Speaker Kirk Cox, were in attendance Sunday at a gubernatorial forum in Fredericksburg. When Cox was asked why he was not present at the in-person forum, a spokesperson for his campaign implied that it was due to the reputation and past actions of the people who organized the event. 
The event was hosted by Nick Ignacio, the chairman of the Battlefield Chapter of Virginia Patriots. Ignacio is currently running to be a Spotsylvania County Supervisor and he unsuccessfully primaried Bobby Orrock for the 54th district House of Delegates seat in 2017.
During that primary race, a video was discovered that showed Ignacio simulating sexual acts with a toy and making vulgar anti-gay remarks.
The Free Lance-Star reported in 2017 on the video. “Ignacio, a 32-year-old Spotsylvania County resident who describes himself as a “normal God-fearing guy” on his campaign website, criticized The Free Lance–Star for asking him about the videos and said he would not answer questions unrelated to policies or his campaign. He called The Free Lance–Star biased in an interview Friday and repeatedly referred to the article as a “hit piece” in a voicemail message Monday.”
The Free Lance-Star also reported that Ignacio told a reporter that he did “goofy silly dumb things,” when he was younger.
Additionally, a former candidate for Richmond City Council, Mike Dickinson, was one of the speakers to take the stage at the beginning of the forum. Dickinson previously ran for Congress as a Democrat in Virginia’s 7th congressional district, but he has been running as a Republican for different offices in the last few years. He made headlines during the 2020 city council race for hosting Trump-associate Roger Stone and members of the Proud Boys, a far-right, neo-fascists organization, at a South Richmond strip club.
“Any campaign that did a simple Google search about the organizers before the forum would have reached the same decision Kirk did,” said Kristen Bennett, press secretary for Cox’s gubernatorial campaign on Sunday night. 
Amanda Chase, the statistical frontrunner in the race who was recently censured by the state Senate for her rhetoric around the Jan. 6 insurrection, accused Cox of being afraid to defend his voting record. “The Republican establishment elite apparently only go to certain events where they feel safe,” she said Sunday night in an interview. “I’ll go wherever the people are to earn their trust and support. [Cox is] probably more concerned he’ll be held accountable for his voting record.”
The Youngkin campaign declined to comment and Pete Snyder’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Snyder and Youngkin were focused on each other during the forum – especially during a moment when Youngkin accused Snyder of pushing misleading attack ads against his campaign. 
The accusations from Youngkin arose from an ad campaign by a super PAC that has the sole mission of preventing Youngkin from winning the Republican nomination for governor.  
“These are lies, and the person behind them should be ashamed,” Youngkin said during the forum Sunday. “And we all know who it is, Pete,” he said as he turned to look at Snyder. The crowd murmured and Snyder chuckled in his seat.
“You deserve to give all these people an apology,” Youngkin continued. “It is as if we are behaving like those Democrat prosecutors in the Trump impeachment trial. We are going to take little snippets and make stuff up. This is not right… This is not the way Republicans need to come together and win.” 
Snyder then took the microphone and stood up to say one sentence. “If I ever hit you, you will know,” he said. He then returned the microphone and took his seat.
The Snyder campaign also did not respond to requests for comment about the accusation from Youngkin. 
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