Republican Glenn Youngkin defeats Democrat Terry McAuliffe in high-stakes Virginia governor’s election

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Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe on a red and blue background with the words “Virginia Governor.”

Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty; Win McNamee/Getty; Shayanne Gal/Insider

  • Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

  • McAuliffe served as governor for one term and Youngkin is a businessman and first-time candidate.

  • The high-stakes election is a huge win for the GOP and a dire warning for Democrats.

What’s at stake:

Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial election. Tuesday’s race was the biggest test of President Joe Biden and his party’s strength since Democrats won back the White House in November 2020 and the Senate in January.

McAuliffe, a longtime fixture of Democratic politics, got his start raking in eye-popping sums as a fundraiser for former President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. After stints as chair of the Democratic National Committee and co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, McAuliffe served one term as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018.

Youngkin, a wealthy former private equity executive and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, is a political newcomer and has self-funded much of his campaign.

The Virginia native was chosen as the GOP nominee by a select number of party members in a May 8 ranked-choice party convention, instead of competing in a primary election. So, unlike McAuliffe, he’s never faced voters before. Youngkin has depicted himself as an economic conservative and largely avoided discussing former President Donald Trump, who lost Virginia by double-digits in 2020.

Governors can only serve one term at a time under the Virginia constitution, meaning current Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is termed out and McAuliffe was seeking his second term. State politics are increasingly nationalized across the country, and particularly in Virginia, which neighbors the US’s capital.

McAuliffe, for his part, had acknowledged that the fate of his campaign was closely tied to Washington Democrats. He recently urged Democrats to do “whatever it takes” to pass their domestic policy agenda, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and bemoaned Biden’s sinking approval rating.

With Youngkin having no real political record of his own, McAuliffe tried aggressively to tie him to Trump. McAuliffe labeled Youngkin as a “Trump wannabe” and Democrats argued that the political neophyte’s policy positions were virtually indistinguishable from Trump’s.

While Youngkin welcomed the former president’s endorsement, he conceded in recent months that Biden was elected fairly and “there wasn’t material fraud” in the 2020 election. Prior to securing the nomination, though, Youngkin refused to say whether Biden won the election.

Youngkin also campaigned on “election integrity,” a platform that signals his embrace of the GOP’s voter fraud conspiracy theories without explicitly endorsing Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.

On Tuesday, Trump released a statement congratulating Youngkin. “I would like to thank my BASE for coming out in force and voting for Glenn Youngkin. Without you, he would not have been close to winning. The MAGA movement is bigger and stronger than ever before,” it said in part.

This followed another statement that his spokesperson Liz Harrington shared on Twitter one day before the election, touting the fact that Trump and Youngkin “get along very well together” and “strongly believe in many of the same policies.”

“The Fake News media, together with some of the perverts doing ads ad nauseam on primarily Fox (Fox shouldn’t take those ads!), are trying to create an impression that Glenn Youngkin and I are at odds and don’t like each other,” the statement said.

McAuliffe, however, did not immediately concede the race on Tuesday night. “Folks, not everything is counted and we’re still waiting for a lot of votes to come in. And we want to ensure every Virginians’ voice is heard,” he tweeted shortly after 10:30 p.m. local time.

In his efforts to appeal to key suburban voters, Youngkin cast himself as an advocate for parents who oppose vaccine mandates and racial justice efforts in public schools. In a late October campaign ad, Youngkin promoted a Fairfax County parent who fought to remove Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel “Beloved” from her son’s high school curriculum. As governor, McAuliffe vetoed a bill mandating that schools notify parents about sexually explicit content their kids are being assigned and allow children to opt out of the schoolwork.

When McAuliffe defended schools and said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” at a recent debate, Youngkin accused him of denying parents any say in their kids’ education.

The latest polls of the race showed education and the economy supplanting COVID-19 as the most important issues to Virginia voters, giving Youngkin a boost in the final days of his campaign.

Read the original article on Business Insider