RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) – Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia Governor’s Race early Wednesday by engaging in school culture wars and races to unite former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters with enough suburban voters to Become the first Republican to win national office here in 12 years.
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Youngkin’s 54-year-old defeat to Democrat Terry McAuliffe marked a sharp turnaround in a state that has shifted to the left over the past decade and was captured by President Joe Biden last year by a 10-point lead. It will certainly heighten Democrats’ concerns about their hold on political power in next year’s mid-term elections if the party’s slim majority in Congress could be wiped out.
The election was the first major test of voter sentiment since Biden took office, and the results were a serious warning sign of the president’s own support. His administration has been shaken repeatedly in recent months, starting with the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, challenges in overcoming the pandemic, and a legislative agenda that could stall on Capitol Hill.
Youngkin, a newcomer to politics and a former private equity manager, capitalized on the apparent apathy among core Democratic voters, tired of years of elections that were seen as indispensable. He portrayed McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, successfully as part of an elite class of politicians. He also picked up on a late stumble from McAuliffe who, during a debate performance, suggested that parents should play a minimal role in school curriculum design.
Perhaps most importantly, Youngkin got his way on a task that took many Republicans before him by surprise: attracting Trump’s grassroots while targeting suburban voters repulsed by the former president’s divisive behavior.
During the campaign, Youngkin declared his support for “electoral integrity,” a nod to Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, while focusing on education and pro-business policies. He never fought with Trump personally and successfully challenged McAuliffe’s efforts to cast him as the former president’s clone.
This approach could be a model for Republicans who will compete in future races in which a significant number of Democratic or independent voters are represented.
Along with the painful loss to the Virginia Democrats, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy found himself in a close battle as he tried to become the first Democratic governor to be re-elected there in more than four decades.
Meanwhile, mayoral competitions from New York and Boston to St. Louis, Detroit and Seattle promised to reshape leadership in many of the country’s largest cities. Democratic former police captain Eric Adams won in New York City, and Boston voters elected Councilor Michelle Wu, the city’s first female Asian-American mayor. Cincinnati is also getting its first Asian-American mayor, Aftab Pureval.
Minneapolis voters turned down an election initiative aimed at overhauling policing in their city that saw George Floyd killed by a white policeman on Memorial Day 2020, sparking the biggest wave of protests against racial injustice in generations. The initiative would have replaced the police force with a public safety department tasked with implementing a “comprehensive public health approach” that increases resources for violence prevention, dispatching mental health experts in response to some emergency calls, and “assisting Need “would involve police officers. ”
But no other off-year contest this election season garnered as much national attention – and money – as the governor’s race in Virginia, a state with large swaths of college-educated voters increasingly influencing control of Congress and the White House.
As a former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group with a lanky 6’6 “build that once made him a reserve striker on the Rice University basketball team, Youngkin poured a large portion of his personal fortune into a campaign that raised more than 59 million US dollars. Dollars spent. Youngkin preferred fleece vests, trying to underline the image of a kind suburban father, and often opened meetings with prayer.
Youngkin ran confidently on a conservative platform. He opposed a major clean energy mandate that the state passed two years ago and opposed abortion in most cases.
He also supported a business-friendly approach to the state’s economy, turned down mask and vaccine mandates, pledged to expand Virginia’s limited charter schools, and outlaw critical racial theory, an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is in the institutions of the Country is systemic and that they serve to maintain the dominance of whites. In recent months, it has become a political buzzword for any school classroom teaching about race and American history.
McAuliffe tried to bolster the Democratic base by highlighting abortion, denouncing a new Texas law that largely banned the procedure, and warned that Youngkin would try to introduce similar restrictions.
Youngkin didn’t publicly discuss abortion much, and a liberal activist caught him on tape saying the issue couldn’t help him during the campaign. He said an election victory would allow the party to “go on the offensive” on this issue.
While McAuliffe seized the star power of a number of national Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Youngkin led her campaign largely alone, focusing on issues he felt were important to Virginians .
Youngkin proved perhaps most successful in diverting McAuliffe’s efforts to tie him to Trump and the divisive political style of the former president.
Even Biden, who made his second trip of the 2021 campaign to the suburbs of Arlington on behalf of McAuliffe just a week before Election Day, hammered to the point calling Youngkin a “Trump acolyte.”
“Extremism can take many forms. It can come in the fury of a mob driven to attack the Capitol. It can be a smile and a fleece vest, ”said Biden, comparing the protesters in the deadly riot in January to Younkin’s favorite campaign clothes.
Former Vice President Mike Pence visited the state and Trump held a phone rally in Virginia on the eve of election day, but Youngkin shied away from a campaign with national Republican stars.
Polls showed a close race after McAuliffe said during a debate in late September that he did not believe “parents should tell schools what to teach”. That prompted Youngkin to run hundreds of TV spots on the statement, focusing on his own promises to make school curricula less “un-American” and to revise transgender student guidelines and school toilets.
More broadly, according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide poll, voters saw the economy as the top priority, followed by the coronavirus pandemic. About 34% of Virginia voters rated the economy as their # 1 priority, compared to 17% who named COVID-19 and 14% chose education. These topics ranked ahead of health care, climate change, racism and abortion in the survey.
The race took a particularly bitter turn last week when Youngkin ran an ad featuring a mother and GOP activist who tried eight years ago to remove “Beloved,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by black Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison Banish classrooms.
McAuliffe accused Youngkin of uncorking a “racist dog whistle,” but Youngkin dismissed this as exaggerated rhetoric of a democratic campaign that was “desperate” by polls. He said Virginia’s parents knew what was really at stake – and so did families across the country, a nod to how harnessing parental activism might work for the GOP next year and in future election cycles.
“America is watching Virginia,” said Youngkin as part of his closing argument. “And America needs us to vote for them too.”
This story evolves. Update for updates.