The Biggest Race Of The Year: Everything You Need To Know About The Virginia Gubernatorial Election
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (L) (D-VA) and Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin (R) particpate in a debate hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce September 28, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia. The gubernatorial election is November 2. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

With November upon us, the eyes of the nation have turned to Virginia, where a contentious gubernatorial campaign between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin will finally be settled. 

The race, widely considered a referendum on the performance of President Biden one year into his first term, was considered a sure-fire victory for Democrats just months ago. But a late surge by Youngkin has polls showing a dead heat in the days before final votes are cast. 

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s most important statewide election.

Who Is Glenn Youngkin?

Youngkin has never run for public office, spending his last 25 years working in accounting and finance after receiving his MBA from Harvard University. Most notably, Youngkin served as President and COO of The Carlyle Group, a prominent private equity firm in Washington. 

After defeating a crowded primary field for the Republican nomination, Youngkin received the endorsement of former President Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and a slew of other Republican leaders. Though he has not publicly campaigned with Mr. Trump, Youngkin has said the former President “represents so much of why I’m running.”

Who Is Terry McAuliffe?

McAuliffe is the former governor of Virginia and a longtime Democratic Party operative. He served as co-chairman of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and more recently as chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. From 2001 to 2005, McAuliffe served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

In 2014, McAuliffe secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Virginia after running unopposed. He then defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli and served as Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. More recently, McAuliffe was employed by Hunton Andrews Kurth, a controversial law firm that’s come under fire for fighting on behalf of public school districts against alleged victims of sexual assault.

Virginia Going Red?

Throughout 2021, most national media outlets wrote off the Virginia gubernatorial race as an easy win for Democrats. Given the commonwealth’s recent electoral history, it’s easy to see why. 

Virginia hasn’t gone Red in a presidential election since 2004, and it hasn’t elected a Republican Governor since 2009.

Virginia Presidential Election Results

2020: 54.1% Biden — 44.0% Trump

2016: 49.7% Clinton — 44.4% Trump

2012: 51.2% Obama — 47.3% Romney

2008: 52.6% Obama — 46.3% McCain

2004: 45.5% Kerry — 53.7% Bush

The Latest Polls

Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2021, polling consistently showed Terry McAuliffe with a sizable lead over Youngkin. From July to September, every single poll listed in Real Clear Politics’ election database showed McAuliffe ahead, usually by 4 to 8 points. 

For much of the campaign, McAuliffe — thanks in large part to his previous role as Virginia’s governor — enjoyed widespread name recognition and a fundraising advantage over his relatively unknown counterpart. 

But as summer came to a close, Youngkin began to gain steam and by October was in a statistical tie with McAuliffe in numerous polls. Three polls conducted a week before election day showed Youngkin with a lead. 

Trafalgar Group: Youngkin 49, McAuliffe 47

Fox 5 DC/Insider Advantage: Youngkin 47, McAuliffe 45

Fox News: Youngkin 53, McAuliffe 45

Leading Issues

The shift in momentum from McAuliffe to Youngkin began in September and appears to have corresponded with a renewed focus on education and COVID lockdowns among the electorate. In one Washington Post-Schar School poll, 24% of Virginians said education was their number one priority, up nine points from the same poll a month earlier. 

Among those who listed education as their top priority, Youngkin held a nine point advantage. In September, it was McAuliffe who held a 33 point lead amongst those voters.

While Youngkin has vowed to “not allow COVID lockdowns to ever occur in Virginia again,” and loosen mask requirements in schools, McAuliffe has supported mask requirements for students and promised to “urge all school divisions to require vaccines for their personnel,” if elected.

A turning point in the race came in late September, when McAuliffe — responding to a question about whether parents should be notified if their children are reading sexually explicit content — said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” 

He went on to add, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision.” 

The comments stood in stark contrast to Youngkin, who has promised to ban Critical Race Theory in classrooms and allow parents increased access to school curricula.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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