Pressure rising for Democrats in Virginia governor’s race
RICHMOND (AP) — Richard Stuart was a long-serving Republican state senator from Virginia. He received three days notice to organize a weekday campaign event in support of Glenn Youngkin, the GOP candidate in Virginia.
To his surprise and delight, some 200 people showed up from across his district, which stretches from the Washington exurbs into more rural communities. The crowd was eager to meet Youngkin, the businessman and political newcomer hoping to break a 12-year GOP losing streak in statewide elections and keep Democratic candidate and former governor Terry McAuliffe from a second term.
“I am seeing more enthusiasm than I’ve seen for a statewide Republican candidate since I can remember,” said Stuart, who’s represented his district since 2008.
This strong showing combined with new polling is fueling optimism for Republicans who have been largely excluded from state government in recent decades. One of the most expensive and competitive political matchups begins its final six weeks. While Democrats remain confident they will win, McAuliffe supporters are a little nervous.
“This election seems to be closer than what we would like,” stated Michael Town, executive director of Virginia League of Conservation Voters. This influential group spends heavily to support Democrats almost exclusively, and has endorsed McAuliffe. “Republicans have a motivation advantage, an enthusiasm advantage.”
McAuliffe, who was in office from 2014 to 2018 and who ran away with the Democratic primary in June, has generally led in public polling, but recent surveys suggest the race may have tightened. A poll conducted this month by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University showed McAuliffe with 50% support among likely voters to Youngkin’s 47%, within the margin of error. Youngkin must overcome many vulnerabilities in this moderate state to win. Democrats claim that Youngkin is too extreme in her views on abortion rights as the U.S. Supreme Court examines the matter. Democrats are trying to tie Youngkin to Donald Trump, who is not popular in large areas of northern Virginia where the race will be decided.
Trump may not have done Youngkin much favors by pushing him to support his agenda this week.
” “The only men who win are those that embrace the MAGA movement,” Trump stated Thursday on John Fredericks Radio Show, when discussing Youngkin’s candidacy.
Republicans in Virginia feel good about Youngkin because they believe he can win. The former investment executive is tall and polished. He has portrayed himself as a down to earth family man.
He has spent much time this year trying not to get involved in culture war issues that Republicans from other parts of the country are embracing. For example, he has not spoken out about gun control or the recent removal a statue of General Robert E. Lee from Richmond. He did, however, make “election integrity” a key part of his platform during the nominating contest, and has vowed to ban the teaching of critical race theory, which explores the history of America through the lens of racism. In some ways, his messaging is a departure from the messages of other Republicans who sought statewide office in recent times. In 2017, Ed Gillespie ran for governor as an establishment candidate before taking a hard turn on immigration policy and the status of Confederate statues. Nearly nine percentage points separated him from Ralph Northam.
The following year, Corey Stewart (an immigration hard-liner who defended the “Confederate heritage”) won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. He was easily defeated by Democrat Tim Kaine.
Garren Schiffley, an experienced GOP operative who is the House GOP caucus’s spokesperson, stated that other Republicans on this year’s ballot are eager to support Youngkin. This was something Shipley said wasn’t always the case for moderates from swing districts.
” “I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t like to be on stage with Glenn Youngkin,” Shipley said. The outcome of the election will depend on how voters feel about Virginia’s Democratic administration.
Democrats took full control of state government in the 2019 elections, following huge gains in 2017. Since then, they’ve passed reams of progressive legislation unthinkable just a handful of years ago, ending the death penalty, mandating utilities shift to renewable energy, legalizing marijuana, expanding LGBTQ protections and loosening abortion restrictions. The challenge is to ensure Democrats are as enthusiastic to vote for those gains to send a message Trump.
” The significant progress we’ve made — based on my perspective on climate change, climate actions — could all be lost in the blink of an eye on Nov. 2. Town stated.
The election will be almost certainly viewed as a referendum on Joe Biden’s first year as president. McAuliffe’s defeat would send a strong signal to Democrats that they are at risk of losing control of Congress in the next year’s midterm elections.
Democrats were elated by the California results, where Governor. Gavin Newsom defeated an attempt to remove him from office early. McAuliffe, like Newsom has tried to highlight his opponent’s ties with Trump and opposition to pandemic preventions. In recent days, he’s slammed Youngkin for his opposition to vaccine and mask mandates.
” The race for Virginia governor is tight. It was always going to. Terry has led a campaign that is laser-focused on the issues Virginians are most concerned about: education, the economy, and ending the pandemic by getting Virginians vaccined,” Christina Freundlich, McAuliffe campaign spokeswoman, said.
McAuliffe campaign states that their way to victory is to keep northern Virginia and other suburban areas intact and to mobilize communities of color. Republicans will have to reduce their edge in Washington and other urban areas including Richmond. They also need to maintain their rural support.
“Republicans definitely have more enthusiasm but they have less numbers,” said Albert Pollard, a former Democratic House delegate.
Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said Virginians “want to move on.”
“Democrats are nervous that the only person excited for a known liar, failed governor and 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe is Terry McAuliffe,” she said. There are several structural factors that could help Republicans this year. These include a long-running trend of Virginia voters voting against the party in charge of the White House during unusually off-year governor’s elections. (Notably, McAuliffe bucked that trend with his win in 2013. )
Youngkin, the wealthy former co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, is his campaign’s biggest donor. He’s already poured at least $17.5 million into his own campaign, according to finance records maintained by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
He’s outpaced McAuliffe, a prodigious, well-connected fundraiser, so far in TV ad spending, according to an accounting of federal disclosure forms compiled by Kantar Media and published by VPAP, though McAuliffe entered the final two months of the campaign with an advantage in cash on hand.
A progressive activist and third party candidate, Princess Blanding is on the ballot, which could help McAuliffe win over voters. Trump could help Youngkin.
“Glenn Youngkin is in the best environment you can ask for as a Republican,” stated Ben Tribbett, a Democratic strategist. He said that there are reasons for Democrats to be concerned, but not panicked.