Retired Army Col. Sergio De La Peña is a different kind of candidate for Virginia governor and has the ability to reach the state’s immigrant community for Republicans, he told Fox News in an interview.
“The reason I’m running for governor is I want to protect the American dream. I was born in Mexico. I grew up in a house with dirt floors and no running water,” he said. “I came to this country not speaking English and in one generation became a senior executive at the Pentagon.”
“I’m not at all unique. There are many many people who have their own American dream stories. That’s why we have so many people wanting to come to this country even though we’re often told we have so many problems,” De La Peña continued. “I’m the only one who can win in a general election. I can reach out to the immigrant community in northern Virginia.”
This is De La Peña’s first run for office, and he faces a crowded field of Republicans, including former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, businessman Pete Snyder, former investment firm executive Glenn Youngkin and state Sen. Amanda Chase.
De La Peña touts that he saw then-candidate Donald Trump’s potential long before many of his fellow Republicans and assisted the 2016 Trump campaign’s Hispanic voter outreach. De La Peña ended up at Trump’s Pentagon, serving as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs.
“I drove U.S. Defense policy for this half of the globe,” De La Peña said. “When I left in October of last year, we had the best alignment of our partners with the U.S. in our history.”
He told Fox News that Democrat-controlled Virginia has become “the testbed of bad ideas.”
“As a concerned citizen and a former soldier, I couldn’t just sit by and watch it happen,” he said. “Now Virginia is seeing that First Amendment rights, Second Amendment rights are being weakened. Our ability to keep our people safe is also being weakened by talk such as defunding the police.”
Virginia has shifted from a battleground state to a solidly blue state in recent presidential elections and has elected Democrats in the last two gubernatorial races. The 2021 race will be closely watched as the first statewide election since Democrats took control of the White House and Senate in 2020.
However, De La Peña thinks Republicans have a chance even in northern Virginia, where he says many voters are becoming jaded with Democratic leaders pushing for remote schooling and other policies.
“Virginia’s a red state. Northern Virginia is what makes it blue, but there’s a lot of concerns that even those in the blue category have become frustrated with,” he said.