Republican Glenn Youngkin has emerged victorious in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, upsetting Democratic nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a race that may reflect a national shift politically as the 2022 midterms approach.
With 95% of the state’s precincts reporting Wednesday, Youngkin held a 70,000-vote edge, garnering roughly 51% of the vote to McAuliffe’s 49%, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.
Youngkin claimed victory several hours earlier before supporters at an election night watch party in Chantilly.
“All righty, Virginia, we won this thing,” he said to an enthusiastic crowd.
Numerous media outlets called the race for the Republican just after midnight Wednesday, though the state will not certify the results until Nov. 15.
But McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, conceded defeat Wednesday morning after holding out while the count continued.
If Youngkin’s lead holds, he will become the state’s first Republican governor since 2009. The National Governors Association notes a victory for the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group would make him the seventh GOP candidate to win the governor’s seat since 1902.
As of Wednesday morning, in the lieutenant governor’s race, the deficit for Democratic candidate Del. Hala Ayala stood at nearly 57,000 votes against Republican candidate Winsome Sears.
The smallest deficit stood for Attorney General Mark Herring, the Democrat, at 34,310 votes against Republican candidate Jason Miyares.
Unofficial results show Princess Blanding, a candidate also on the ballot for governor representing the Liberation Party, received 22,625 votes as of Wednesday morning.
One McAuliffe supporter, Tony Rivermbark, praised the former governor, who served from 2014 to 2018, for presenting an upbeat mood Tuesday as election officials continued to count votes.
“Realistically, I don’t think we’re going to pull it off,” the Northern Virginia resident said. “But you don’t want to leave all your supporters exiting on a negative note.”
Students for Life Action, an anti-abortion youth organization based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, proclaimed Youngkin the winner.
“Abortion is an issue that motivates voters and in this race, Glenn Youngkin benefited from the passionate support for life in SFLAction’s home state,” SLF president Kristan Hawkins said in a statement.
“As this campaign unfolded, it became clear that the only time Terry McAuliffe really supported parents was when they were aborting their children,” she said. “This win adds to the momentum we need as we work for a pro-life victory in 2022 at the national level. We are gearing up for a massive mobilization as we look to the U.S. House and Senate in the election to come.”
In a close contest for the past several weeks, a major topic focused on Youngkin connecting parental grievances and conservatives nationwide, accusing a local school board of incorporating a liberal cultural agenda.
Jocelyn Tchakounte of Loudoun County joined the 1.1 million registered voters who cast their ballots early and said he chose Youngkin because he would ensure children are learning the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in school.
Tchakounte, who sported a “Black Virginians for Glenn Youngkin” T-shirt at a rally Saturday in Manassas Park, said certain subjects such as sexuality “should be taught at home and not in school.”
Marian Stanfield of Alexandria cast her ballot Tuesday and chose the Democratic slate. She cited her reason for choosing McAuliffe: her objection to former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Youngkin.
“All elections are important but this one especially,” said Stanfield, a retired AT&T employee whose family has resided in the city for 50 years. “You have [Youngkin] endorsed by [Trump]. I knew I would not vote for him.”
Virginia’s Separate Ballot
Prior to Tuesday’s election, some political insiders viewed McAuliffe running as an incumbent because of his victory eight years ago. Virginia law doesn’t allow candidates to run two consecutive terms but permits them to seek office for a second term.
Mark Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, said in an interview Monday, Nov. 1 several factors made the gubernatorial race much closer than anticipated: President Joe Biden’s decreasing popularity; Democrats “inability to get things done” in Washington, D.C., despite having control of the executive and legislative branches; and the Democratic Party’s brand which has greatly suffered in recent months.
“Terry McAuliffe had nothing to do with any of that and he has no control over any of that,” Rozell said. “But this larger, national political context has put heavy weight on the Democratic campaign in Virginia this year.”
That’s because Virginia remained the only state along with New Jersey to hold off-year elections while the majority of states hold gubernatorial elections next year.
One of Virginia’s other quirks rests with the governor and lieutenant governor running separate campaigns that could create a Democrat winning the gubernatorial race and a Republican winning the lieutenant governor contest. However, in the recent election, Republicans won both seats.
U.S. presidential and gubernatorial candidates in states such as neighboring Maryland run on the same ticket. In addition, that person chooses a running mate.
Rozell said the Virginia legislature would need to change the constitution to conform with most states.
“Separate ballots for governor and lieutenant governor have long existed in Virginia. It is a rather odd arrangement that should end,” Rozell said. “Very few people pay attention to the lieutenant governor’s race. You’re putting someone one heartbeat away from the governorship. Therefore, it really does matter.”
WI staff writer Dorothy Rowley contributed to this story.