Group of anti-Trump Republicans was behind tiki torches in Virginia campaign

Oct 29 (Reuters) - A group of mostly Republican critics of former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed responsibility on Friday for a demonstration in the Virginia governor's campaign that recalled an infamous 2017 rally in the state.

The Lincoln Project said it was behind the use of tiki torches outside a Republican candidate's bus that mimicked the rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville. The earlier event turned deadly when a car driven into a crowd by a self-described neo-Nazi killed a counter-protester.

Tuesday's close vote between Republican former private-equity executive Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor, is widely seen as a foretaste of next year's midterm elections.

"Today's demonstration was our way of reminding Virginians what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican Party's embrace of those values and Glenn Youngkin's failure to condemn it," the Lincoln Project said in a statement.

On Friday morning, five people wearing white shirts, khaki pants, dark sunglasses and baseball caps and carrying tiki torches approached Youngkin's campaign bus. They reportedly said, "We're all in for Glenn," and remained in front of the bus during his campaign event.

Youngkin said the demonstrators were sent by his opponents. The Democratic Party of Virginia denied involvement.

Trump, who was president during the Aug. 11, 2017 "Unite the Right" rally, was criticized for initially saying there were "fine people on both sides" of the dispute between neo-Nazis and their opponents at the rally.

Recent polls show McAuliffe slightly ahead or in a statistical dead heat in a state where President Joe Biden beat Trump by 10 percentage points last year. read more

The two parties have spent heavily on the race, a test of how Republicans will fare when Trump is not on the ballot and whether they have momentum in their bid to win back control of the narrowly divided houses of Congress next year.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard

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