Virginians voted on Tuesday in an extremely close gubernatorial race that could indicate whether Republicans or Democrats will have an advantage in the US Congressional election next year.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a party member who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, has seen his lead over Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin in opinion polls evaporate in recent weeks.
A McAuliffe defeat in Virginia, which Democratic President Joe Biden won by double-digit margin over then-Republican President Donald Trump, would sound the alarm bells for National Democrats.
“We all knew from the start that it would be a close race,” Biden said of the Virginia election on Tuesday, predicting McAuliffe would win. “The dead year is always unpredictable.”
Cultural issues dominated the gubernatorial race, with Youngkin vowing to give parents more control over how public schools handle race, gender and COVID-19 protocols, and McAuliffe vowing to protect access abortion and voting rights.
Polls leading up to election day showed Youngkin closed the gap with McAuliffe by appealing to independent voters – a group that was alienated in 2020 by Trump’s fiery political style but was more drawn to the sympathetic manner of Youngkin – despite McAuliffe’s attempts to tie Youngkin to the former president.
“Comparing him to President Trump really didn’t resonate with me,” said Jacob McMinn, program director at a defense contractor, after voting Republican in Fairfax, just outside Washington.
McMinn, 38, said he supported Youngkin’s view that schools should not teach “critical race theory”: a law school concept that keeps racism rooted in law and American institutions and that the legacies of slavery and segregation created an uneven playing field for black Americans.
Schools say they don’t include theory in elementary and high school curricula, but try to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse American population.
Youngkin’s strategy could offer a roadmap for Republicans trying to win over suburban moderates in the 2022 election, where congressional control and the fate of Biden’s agenda will be at stake, without alienating supporters of the hardline who backed Trump.
But Trump’s role in the race was still on the minds of many voters after the former president endorsed Youngkin.
“He had Trump backing him and I’m like out the door,” said Alicia Prieto, 57, after voting for McAuliffe in Fairfax. The computer programmer said she believed McAuliffe would do a better job funding public education.
The winner will succeed Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who is prohibited by Virginia’s term limit law from serving two consecutive terms.
The race is one of the many contests and issues facing American voters on Tuesday as they grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice and rising consumer prices.
In the other governor’s race, NewJersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is front-runner to win a second term against Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a former state lawmaker.
Dozens of major US cities will also choose mayors, including Atlanta, Minneapolis, Boston, Miami, Cincinnati, Detroit and Seattle. In New York City, Brooklyn Borough President and former Police Captain Eric Adams, a Democrat, is expected to become the city’s second black mayor, unless Republican Curtis Sliwa, who heads the Civil Street Patrol of Angels guards, could not cause a shocking upheaval.
A year and a half after George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by a white policeman, voters in Minneapolis will decide whether to approve a measure that would replace the police department https://www.reuters.com/world/ us / minneapolis -the-voters-decide-to-scare-the-police-department-18-months-after-george-2021-10-31 with a new public security agency.
Virginia’s gubernatorial race has long been seen as a crucial barometer of the president’s national standing – and a preview of the following year’s midterm elections.
Biden’s approval ratings have fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest national Reuters / Ipsos poll, conducted last Wednesday and Thursday.
Youngkin, 54, a political newcomer and former private equity executive, has campaigned as an advocate for parents who want more voices in their children’s education, capitalizing on the anger of some conservatives who believe the schools enforce divisional programs in the name of diversity.
Speaking in Richmond on Monday, Youngkin vowed he would usher in “a Virginia where our government stops telling us what to do all the time.”
McAuliffe, 64, sought to tie Youngkin to Trump at every turn, attacking the Republican for initially hesitating about whether Biden legitimately won the election.
As Youngkin acknowledged Biden’s victory, he called for an audit of Virginia’s voting machines, a move that prompted Democrats to accuse him of validating Trump’s baseless electoral conspiracy theories.
Trump reiterated his support for Youngkin in a statement on Monday, saying, “He has had my full and utter support for many months!”
McAuliffe responded to Trump’s statement on Twitter.
“He’s doing everything he can to win this race because he knows Glenn will push his MAGA program forward here in Virginia,” McAuliffe wrote of Trump, referring to his tagline, Make America Great Again.
Youngkin has followed Trump, mainly avoiding discussing the former president while campaigning on issues such as public safety and education that appeal to both moderates and Trump supporters.
But without Trump leading the poll, it’s unclear whether invoking his name will be as effective for Democrats.
Biden and former President Barack Obama both started the election campaign with McAuliffe.
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