News & Politics

Virginia Gubernatorial Race Heats Up as McAuliffe and Youngkin Vie for Votes

Kate Magee Joyce/Youngkin for Governor Campaign via AP

 

Most analysts have their eyes focused on the West, where we’ll soon know whether Gov. Gavin Newsom survives his recall election. But California is not the only blue state with a gubernatorial race this fall. 

Along with New Jersey, Virginians will soon go to the polls to either vote Democrat Terry McAuliffe back into the governor’s mansion or elect Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin. No Republican has won a statewide race in the Commonwealth in 12 years.

McAuliffe’s campaign strategy consists of promoting his record as governor from 2014-18 and portraying Youngkin — a former CEO of The Carlyle Group — as too redolent of former President Donald Trump.

The Old Dominion used to be deep red. Its voters backed the Republican nominee in every presidential election from 1968 to 2008, when Barack Obama flipped the state and won it again four years later. Trump lost Virginia in 2016 and didn’t even contest it last year, falling by 10 points.

Polling suggests the race leans in McAuliffe’s favor by anywhere from 8-10 points, though some believe it’ll be closer due to President Joe Biden’s falling popularity.

On policy, McAuliffe plans to nearly double the minimum wage, ban so-called assault weapons, and despite being a Catholic, push pro-abortion policies.

He will not answer questions about critical race theory, long a major topic in Virginia’s wealthiest counties up north. Youngkin says he will ban teaching of the controversial left-wing theory in public schools.

Like most Democrats, McAuliffe is aggressive and controlling with his pandemic policy, calling on employers in his state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. Youngkin, meanwhile, encourages people to get vaccinated but says he will not allow pandemic lockdowns to resume in Virginia if he becomes governor.

Youngkin has endorsed a tax plan that would, among much else, provide a one-time tax rebate of $600 for joint filers and $300 for individuals.

The former businessman’s challenge seemingly is to present a Republican platform palatable to the Northern Virginia suburbs, while also appealing to GOP voters who still identify with Trump. Though Trump has endorsed him, Youngkin rarely mentions the former president’s name at campaign events, a strategy many feel helped win him the nomination.

On abortion, Youngkin won’t say if he would seek to change the state’s existing abortion laws, explaining, “I do think that one of the biggest issues in abortion today, candidly, is that my opponent supports late-term abortions, he supports using taxpayer money for late-term abortions all the way up through the last week of pregnancy.”

He refers to McAuliffe, who flipped on a radical move to “codify” Roe two years ago, and now avoids answering questions about a controversial 2019 bill, while maintaining that he would “enshrine” the 1973 decision in the Virginia constitution.

Will this matter?

Local media want to make abortion a main topic, however, only 4 percent of Virginia voters surveyed said abortion is a top issue during the campaign, lagging well behind the coronavirus pandemic, the economy , and education.

“I believe conservatives are weary of politicians that have been in the system forever,” William Robbins of Midlothian, a Richmond suburb, told PJ Media. “We just want a reasonable person to go in and make common-sense decisions that benefit everyone without making a scene or posturing. Just follow the fundamental American principles of limited government and individual liberty.”

McAuliffe and Youngkin will debate Thursday night in the Appalachian town of Grundy. Early voting begins Friday.