"I'm not a politician," he says in the video. "I've spent the last 30 years building business and creating jobs. . . . It's going to take an outsider, a new kind of leader, to bring a new day to Virginia."
Younkin, who is worth an estimated $254 million, has the personal wealth to self-finance his campaign. In the video, he plays up his modest roots, recalling his move as a boy from the Richmond area to Virginia Beach after his father lost his job. As a teen, Youngkin said, he helped support the family by washing dishes at a diner. A basketball scholarship was his ticket to college. After Rice University, he attended Harvard Business School.
As a newcomer, Youngkin has no voting record to defend, which some Republicans tout as a fresh start for a party that has not won a statewide Virginia race since 2009. Youngkin describes himself as a conservative in the video and refers to his faith but does not touch on policy.
Youngkin joins what is now an unusually crowded GOP field. The others vying for the party's nomination are state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield); Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), a former House speaker; retired Army colonel Sergio de la Peña; and businessman Pete Snyder.
An equal number of Democrats are seeking to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who is prohibited by the state constitution from seeking back-to-back terms. They are former governor Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond), former delegate Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William) and Del. Lee J. Carter (Manassas).
Youngkin drew attacks even before joining the race, including a flurry of anonymous anti-Youngkin text messages blasted to Republicans in recent weeks. On Jan. 15, Republican strategist Chris Jankowski launched an anti-Youngkin political action committee and rolled out an online ad attacking Youngkin's business record. Jankowski said the PAC was unaffiliated with any candidate and declined to identify the source of its funding, saying that will be disclosed when campaign finance reports are due.
The large number of GOP contenders has set off alarms for Republicans who oppose Chase, a Trump-style provocateur who could be popular with the party's base but would be likely to struggle, as Trump did, with the suburban swing voters critical to a general election win in this increasingly blue state.
Concerns about Chase's prospects — and Youngkin's — fed into a bitter debate over the past seven weeks about whether the party should pick its nominee at a convention, open only to party-nominated delegates, or a primary, open to all voters. Some favoring a convention feared that Chase could win a crowded primary with a plurality of the vote; a convention win, by contrast, requires 50 percent plus one.
But other pro-convention members were Snyder supporters who feared a primary because Youngkin, with his hundreds of millions of dollars, could outspend Snyder, a social media pioneer who is worth tens of millions. Expensive TV advertising is critical to swaying voters in primaries, making those contests more costly than conventions, which are won by drumming up grass-roots support. After three marathon meetings, the party voted Saturday to stick with its plan to hold a convention.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Virginia Republicans will choose their gubernatorial nominee in a primary. They will do so in a convention.