Today, the state of Virginia will vote to decide who its next governor will be. With the 2022 midterm elections rapidly approaching, the two leading candidates in next week’s election head into the polls in a close race.
The leading democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is an experienced politician who is running for reelection after previously serving as governor for one term from 2014 to 2018. He has led his campaign with the message of moving the commonwealth forward and creating a better future for its citizens, especially in the context of a post-COVID-19 economy. Though he has often argued that the state needs “seasoned” leadership, there is some concern that McAuliffe’s prior experience in government may prove itself detrimental to his campaign’s success in a political environment that has begun to favor outsiders. Though many anticipated a secure victory for McAuliffe, the race has taken a turn, leading McAuliffe to reach out for support from national leaders like President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama in the hopes of maintaining a Democratic hold over statewide office.
Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, a former businessman with a right-leaning agenda, has become a formidable threat to Democratic leadership in this year’s gubernatorial race. Given his state’s potential transition to a red state and similarities between their professional backgrounds, Youngkin has unsurprisingly gained the support of former President Donald Trump. However, Youngkin has strategically avoided expressing his explicit support or disapproval of the controversial leader, instead branding himself as a “nice-guy dad” while donning his signature fleece vest and emphasizing his humble upbringing and his life as a father of four children. When asked whether he supported Trump, he avoided providing a direct answer, instead stating, “I’m Glenn Youngkin.”
Aside from his carefully curated personality, one of the forefront parts of Youngkin’s platform focuses on winning support from parents who oppose critical race theory (CRT) being taught to their children in schools. Youngkin’s campaign promises of removing CRT from school curriculums plays into polarized debates that have recently gained traction throughout the state and the nation. Many parents that are protesting the implementation of CRT claim it emphasizes racial identity over people’s individuality, with some even connecting it to “advancing Marxist ideology.”
Youngkin’s promise to ban CRT and McAuliffe’s claims that his opponent’s issue is “another right-wing conspiracy” exemplify the polarization that continues to progress throughout statewide and national political environments. If Youngkin is elected to office this November, it could set a dangerous precedent for local educational discourse on a nationwide level. Youngkin’s views on CRT reflect an ignorance that should not be endorsed by the government.
Today’s election marks the first major election since the 2020 presidential cycle, giving it the possibility for significant influence over upcoming decisions in national politics. Virginia has held strong Democratic control over all statewide offices for over a decade, and just last year, Biden won a majority of the state’s votes by over 10 percentage points in the presidential election. As a historically contended state, the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial election could be integral to predictions of the upcoming midterm elections in 2022. Losing this Democratic lead could reverberate across the national political sphere. This election might bear implications for the nation in terms of concrete policy, precedent or polarization on key issues. Constituents and leaders beyond Virginia should remain educated and involved in Virginia’s political decisions as we make our way into another national election cycle next year.