Republican Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor’s race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday night, shattering Democratic hopes of turning the commonwealth permanently blue.
CNN and the New York Times projected Youngkin would win Virginia just after 12:30 am on Wednesday. The Times had Youngkin leading with 50.9 percent of the vote to McAuliffe’s 48.4 percent with more than 95 percent of the total votes tallied.
McAuliffe won Loudoun County by 10.5 percentage points, indicating that he would not rake in the massive votes he needed in the highly populated blue and blue-leaning counties. Biden, comparatively, won Loudoun County by 25 points during the 2020 election.
Youngkin outperformed former president Donald Trump in many rural Virginia counties, such as Carroll, Smyth and Russell. He flipped Virginia Beach and Montgomery counties, which both went for Biden in 2020.
Polls closed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. Fairfax County, which has been notably slow to tally votes in the past, promised they would start releasing results as early as 8 p.m. However, the McAuliffe campaign announced that Fairfax had to rescan a portion of the early votes and thus the county would be delayed in reporting. Conservatives started raising alarm bells over the news, both because it called to mind late-night reporting that shifted the race to Biden in 2020, and because it was shared by the Democratic campaign rather than county election officials.
Virginia has been trending left for at least a decade as Democratic voters have poured into the DC suburbs, particularly Arlington and Fairfax counties and Alexandria city. President Joe Biden won Virginia by ten points, giving the Democratic party outsized confidence that they would easily win the 2021 gubernatorial election. However, Youngkin campaigned heavily on the economy and education, top issues for Virginia voters. When polled ahead of the race, parents broke heavily for Youngkin and likely voters said they better trusted Youngkin to handle jobs and taxes. But as the election crept closer, voters were less likely to rank the COVID-19 pandemic as a top issue, an area in which McAuliffe was more trusted.
Youngkin campaigned heavily in both Loudoun and Fairfax counties, matching the energy of local parents who have spent the better part of a year protesting their school boards over pandemic-related school closures, critical race theory and transgender bathroom policies. McAuliffe’s biggest campaign gaffe came during a late September debate when he said parents shouldn’t be telling schools what they teach. Loudoun became the center of the news cycle just about a month before Election Day due to reporting that showed the county school board attempted to cover up a sexual assault in a school bathroom. Youngkin’s final rally before election night took place in Loudoun County.
McAuliffe opted to shift his campaign away from local issues, instead comparing Youngkin to Trump, raising questions about the future of democracy if he were to lose and likening the Youngkin campaign to white nationalist protests in Charlottesville. Youngkin accepted an endorsement from Trump but did not campaign with him during the race.
“It is looking like Terry McAuliffe’s campaign against a certain person named ‘Trump’ has very much helped Glenn Youngkin,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday night. “All McAuliffe did was talk Trump, Trump, Trump and he lost! What does that tell you, Fake News?”
The Republican National Committee released a statement congratulating Youngkin, as well as Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares, arguing that the election was a referendum on Biden.
“The red wave is here!” they declared. “This Republican sweep in Virginia is a resounding rebuke of the failed policies of Joe Biden and the Democrats. Virginians — and Americans across the country — are fed up with Biden’s divisive policies, failed leadership, and a Democrat agenda hurting working families. A Republican wave is coming in 2022, and Virginia is just the start.”
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund president Jenny Beth Martin said that Youngkin won because he avoided capitulating to the left and campaigning as a moderate, particularly on cultural issues like education.
“Glenn Youngkin’s success in the bellwether counties shows that a strong conservative agenda can lead to victory. Too often, the media has a false narrative that conservative Republicans are less electable than moderate Republicans. The opposite is true, and we see that in Virginia. Youngkin’s agenda of standing for individual liberty and against mask and vaccine mandates, and putting parents back in charge of their children’s education, cut across partisan lines and energized not just conservatives, but Independent voters and even some Democrats. Youngkin’s big win, especially in the bellwether counties, holds important lessons for 2022 and beyond.”
Republican Winsome Sears is the first black woman to become Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, while Jason Miyares will be the first Latino Attorney General.
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