Republican Candidate Glenn Youngkin Will Be the Next Governor of Virginia

Outcome

Last Tuesday, November 2, 2021, a statewide election was held to see who would become Virginia’s 74th governor. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin beat his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe, which was a shock to many in what was widely considered a blue-leaning state with President Joe Biden having a 10-point lead over former President Donald Trump in the recent 2020 presidential election. Despite this Youngkin narrowly won with 50.8% of the vote compared to McAuliffe’s 48.4%, similar results were found in both the lieutenant gubernatorial and attorney general elections. It was the highest turnout gubernatorial election by total ballots cast in Virginian history, with over 3.26 million votes. By percentage of registered voters that participated, it was the highest turnout since 1999. This outcome isn’t unprecedented, though. Virginia has only elected one governor that was the same party as the sitting president since 1969, being McAuliffe in 2013 during Obama’s presidency.

Analysis

Kamala Harris and Terry McAuliffe at campaign event in Dumfries, VA (photo credit: Thomas Reed)

A key difference between the campaigns ran by both main candidates is that of establishment connection or at least the perception of that connection. McAuliffe himself is deeply embedded in the Democratic establishment, having served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. Within the race, he held multiple campaign events featuring members of current and past Democratic administrations including former President Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, and President Joe Biden.

All of this is to say that he tied his image to these figures for better or worse. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake, as President Biden’s net approval rating went negative sometime around late August. This is in contrast to Youngkin who distanced himself from former President Donald Trump, not holding any campaign events with him despite Trump endorsing his candidacy. On top of this Youngkin has never ran for or held political office before. Of course, that is only one of the many factors that may have influenced the outcome of the election.

According to exit polling, five major issues influenced voters’ decisions, they were as follows: economy/jobs 33%, education 24%, coronavirus pandemic 15%, taxes 15%, and abortion 8%. Youngkin carried all issues except for the coronavirus pandemic, which McAuliffe lead by 68 points. To see where the candidates stood on the issues you can check out our coverage of the gubernatorial debates. Youngkin is set to be sworn in as the new governor of Virginia on January 15, 2022.