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A new tourism ad featuring Governor Glenn Youngkin is raising questions

A screenshot from the new tourism ad.
A screenshot from the new tourism ad.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation has a new ad campaign featuring Governor Glenn Youngkin. The ad agency doing the spots helped the governor get elected last year.

The Welcome Project is the kind of thing you might see at an airport lobby or next to a vending machine at a welcome center.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says there's a long history of governors using their moment in the spotlight for some publicity.

"In Virginia, we have long had new roadmaps printed after every election so that the picture of the new governor and maybe a brief welcome statement is included in the maps available at rest areas," explains Farnsworth.

But the Richmond Times-Dispatch found this particular ad campaign was produced by the same agency that helped Youngkin get elected last year.

Mark Rozell is dean of the Schar School at George Mason University, and he says this raises questions about how the contract was awarded.

"Favoritism never looks good. It just smacks of inappropriate appearances," says Rozell. "A company that's doing a political thing on behalf of someone running for office gets the contract from a state agency and features that very same candidate now [an] elected public official. It just doesn't look very good."

Poolhouse CEO and co-founder Will Ritter says the ad agency “is thrilled to partner with the Virginia Tourism Corporation to brag on the state we love and call home.”

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.