(Daily Caller News Foundation) — Glenn Youngkin will be Virginia’s next governor after narrowly beating former Gov. Terry McAuliffe Tuesday night, making him the first Republican to win statewide in over a decade and ending Democrats’ total control over the legislative process held for nearly two years.
Youngkin led by just over two points when the race was called, buoyed by record turnout in rural areas and an energized Republican base. He trailed McAuliffe in nearly every poll up until the final days of the race, when late momentum gave him the slimmest of leads in a state that President Joe Biden won by over 10 points just a year ago.
In addition to Youngkin, Republican Winsome Sears is set to win Virginia’s lieutenant governor race and Republican Jason Miyares leads in the race to be the state’s next attorney general. Republicans flipped five seats in the Virginia State House, turning Democrats’ 10-seat majority into a 50-50 split chamber.
“Congratulations to Republicans Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Jason Miyares on their incredible campaigns and hard fought victories,” the Republican Governors’ Association said in a statement declaring victory. “This Republican sweep in Virginia is a resounding rebuke of the failed policies of Joe Biden and the Democrats.”
While Virginia’s economic recovery and the coronavirus vaccine were the dominating issues for much of the race, education became central as the contest became more nationalized and McAuliffe’s lead began to erode.
“Folks, not everything is counted and we’re still waiting for a lot of votes to come in,” McAuliffe said in a statement Tuesday night thanking his supporters. “And we want to ensure every Virginians’ voice is heard.”
Education leapt to the forefront of both campaigns after McAuliffe said that he did not “think that parents should be telling schools what they should teach” during a September debate, referring to two bills he vetoed while governor that would have allowed parents to prevent their kids from engaging with material that they deemed explicit or sexual. Youngkin repeatedly brought up McAuliffe’s remark in the following weeks, even airing ads that accused him of siding against parents when it came to their kids’ educations.
McAuliffe in response accused Youngkin of promoting a “racist dog whistle,” and repeatedly tried to tie him to former President Donald Trump, who twice lost the state and remains deeply unpopular in it. He also campaigned alongside Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama and other high-profile Democrats in a bid to energize his base.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) and transgender rights also moved front-and-center in the race’s final weeks, with increasingly frustrated parents voicing their concerns in front of school boards in some of Virginia’s most populous counties. In Loudoun County, which extends west from Washington, D.C.’s outer suburbs, the school board covered up the alleged sexual assault of a girl by her transgender classmate for months, ultimately leading to the board’s head resigning in October.
“[Virginia] is leading the nation away from heavy-handed government control and putting power back into the hands of the people,” former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Daily Caller News Foundation when asked to comment on Youngkin’s win. “Virginians rejected woke policies and chose an optimistic vision for the future.”
Youngkin also pledged to ban the teaching of CRT in Virginia schools on his first day in office.
In addition to Youngkin’s late momentum, concerns over rising inflation, crime and the pandemic have risen nationwide, lowering Democrats’ overall approval given their control of the White House and Congress. They have also struggled to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending package, which together comprise the bulk of his domestic agenda, though they aim to vote on both this week and are hoping to compromise on key provisions.
“Youngkin’s win reflects a race well-run and a suburban electorate that is increasingly frustrated by rising inflation, rising crime, rising political correctness and persistent pandemic mandates,” Bruce Mehlman, a veteran Republican strategist, told the DCNF. “[It reflects] an overall sense that government should do less.”
In New Jersey, the only other state to hold a gubernatorial election this year, incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy trails Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by less than a point with 76% of the vote reported.