Ex-DeSantis Hill staffer runs for U.S. Senate, says pandemic was his call for change

Scott Parkinson, if he wins the GOP primary, would likely run against Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine.

Published: July 21, 2023 11:19pm

A top aide to Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis when he was in Congress is running for a Virginia Senate seat and says pandemic-related challenges motivated him to try to go from a behind-the- scenes 'guy' to an elected official who could bring about change.

"When I worked on Capitol Hill, I always thought I would be the 'guy behind the guy' and I was content being a staffer," the former DeSantis chief of staff, Scott Parkinson, recently told Just the News. 

"All that changed in 2020 during COVID when I felt Congress didn't have enough people standing up for my children, supporting our rights, fighting for our freedoms and working to preserve our economic future," he said.

Parkinson also said he felt "disheartened" by far-left lawmakers using what he called "crisis legislation" during that time to enact their agenda, which has been categorized by critics to include mask and vaccine mandates. 

"I became convinced that I had to step up and try to make a difference for my country," the 40-year-old Parkinson also said. 

He credited Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for paving the way for Republicans in the Commonwealth. 

"It's sort of this opportunity that landed in front of me, thanks to Glenn Youngkin winning Virginia in 2021," Parkinson recently said on the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show.

"There's also that burning desire of anger about what was happening during the coronavirus pandemic and what they were doing, really to kids. We've got a big parents rights issue here in Virginia. We've also got a big public safety issue."

Parkinson is not the first Capitol Hill staffer to recently run for elected office.

Florida GOP Rep. Kat Cammack served as deputy chief of staff for Rep. Ted Yoho when he was in Congress. And Alabama GOP Sen. Katie Britt served as chief of staff for recently retired Sen. Richard Shelby before taking his long-held Senate seat.

In addition to being DeSantis' top aide, Parkinson served on his gubernatorial transition team, has worked for three U.S. senators and was the executive director of the Republican Study Committee, according to his campaign website,

If he wins the Republican primary, Parkinson will likely run against Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, who announced in January that he would seek a third term. 

"There are Americans that care about our future because public safety, violent crime, the violence, the drugs – all these issues are really front and center," Parkinson also says about his 2024 bid and the November 2023 elections in Virginia in which Republicans hope to win back the state Senate for Youngkin. 

Youngkin won the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2021 after Democrats had the seat for eight years. He has recently launched an initiative to get Republicans to embrace early voting, which Parkinson says he supports. 

"Governor Youngkin and the Spirit of Virginia have invested big time money heading into 2023 to try to change that voting behavior and get conservatives comfortable with early voting with mail and voting, and also with [legal] ballot harvesting," he said. 

Parkinson plans to follow Yougkin's winning election strategy and run on similar voter issues.

"Governor Youngkin in 2021 ran up the score in all those rural areas of Virginia, but he also pulled off a lot of soft Democrats," Parkinson said.

"And he won a lot of independents with his message on parents' rights, with his message on the economic situation, as well as his message on public safety. I aim to replicate that later in June of 2024 with our primary and then also in November 2024 when we beat Tim Kaine."

Parkinson already has about two dozens endorsements including ones from such conservatives as Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee and Republican Reps. Bryon Donalds, Jason Smith, Mary Miller and Scott Perry.

"I love this guy, and it would be great to have him in the Senate," Lee said. "I endorse him wholeheartedly."

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