The Virginia gubernatorial race continues to heat up in the last couple of weeks before the election. Republican candidate Glenn Younkin is hitting back at his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe with a blistering ad that uses McAuliffe’s own statements on education against him.
Youngkin’s ad follows an ad that the McAuliffe campaign issued earlier on Monday stating that the Youngkin campaign has been taking McAuliffe’s statements on education “out of context.”
What’s clear from Youngkin’s ad is that McAuliffe has said on a number of occasions what his GOP rival has claimed all along: that McAuliffe believes that parents shouldn’t have a say in their kids’ education.
“Two weeks before Election Day, Terry McAuliffe is struggling to save his campaign,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told Fox News. “After 3 weeks of confirming more than half a dozen times that he meant exactly what he said in the debate, McAuliffe has been ordered by panicked DC Democrats to stop spouting anti-parent screeds.”
“But it’s too late – Terry showed us his heart,” Porter added. “This is what he believes. His attempt to fool Virginians is pathetic, and parents know the truth because the videos don’t lie. Terry will have to answer for that in two weeks on Election Day.”
The education issue is resonating with voters. Even in reliably liberal Northern Virginia, parents have expressed concerns about critical race theory, transgender policies, and the school systems’ response to the pandemic. This trio of issues has turned into a three-headed Hydra that is hard for candidates on either side to ignore.
Fox News conducted its own poll showing that a majority of Virginia parents desire a say in what their children are learning at school:
When asked by Fox pollsters, “Do you believe parents should – or should not – be telling schools what to teach?” 57% of Virginia parents and 50% of likely voters told Fox News that parents should tell schools what to teach. Only 34% of parents, and 40% of likely voters, said parents “should not” tell schools what to teach.
All of this parental concern over education comes at the Biden administration has mused about investigating parents who raise concerns about their children’s education. Attorney General Merrick Garland has stated that he would allow the FBI to go after parents as a response to what he called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” Naturally, Garland’s words haven’t gone over well with parents.
Related: Will Biden Blow It for McAuliffe in Virginia?
All of these issues have combined to turn the governor’s race in Virginia largely into a referendum on education — at least from the outside looking in. This race has reflected the concerns of parents nationally when it comes to public school curricula.
One of the country’s largest teachers unions is weighing in as well, and naturally they’re on McAuliffe’s side. The American Federation of Teachers released an ad supporting the Democrat and his educational plan.
“As governor, he had a demonstrated track record of listening to the people he represents, engaging directly with parents and teachers,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “He made sure parents and teachers were heard, and he worked with them to curb high-stakes standardized testing. I know he’ll do the same when elected again.”
Polling averages show that Youngkin could be closing the gap. As of the writing of this article, Real Clear Politics has Youngkin just 2.2 points behind McAuliffe, with one poll showing a dead heat between the candidates.
Can Youngkin finish the drill and emerge victorious, or will McAuliffe win a second stint in the governor’s mansion? It’s hard to tell, since Virginia is a solid blue state. But the ongoing debate over education and McAuliffe’s tone deaf statements about parental involvement have done some damage to McAuliffe’s chances.