VIRGINIA, USA — In his first bid for public office, Republican Glenn Youngkin has secured a win in Virginia’s gubernatorial race – a contest that experts say is the first litmus test on how voters feel about Joe Biden’s presidency. CBS declared Youngkin the projected winner just after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Youngkin, 54, defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe -- who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 -- 51% to 48%, with 95% of the precincts reporting. The former business executive’s win is being touted as a democratic rebuff in the Commonwealth, which has trended blue over the past several elections. President Joe Biden won the state by 10 percentage points in 2020 against former President Donald Trump.
The Virginia governor’s mansion has been controlled by Democrats since 2014 when Bob McDonnell was replaced by McAuliffe. McDonnell is the only Republican who managed to win the governorship over the past two decades.
“Tomorrow will be a statement, a statement that will be heard across this country,” Youngkin said at a rally in Loudoun County Monday night. “The future of this commonwealth, the future of this country is going to be decided.”
The political newcomer campaigned on a platform of cutting living costs, reinvigorating job growth and community safety, and investing in education. Ongoing protests against the school board in Northern Virginia’s affluent Loudoun County became a rallying cry for Republicans, who hoped to tie McAuliffe to what they see as a pattern of government hostility to parents’ rights.
"This is a moment for us to make a statement that big government control is going to lose and liberty and freedom in Virginia are going to win," Youngkin said at a Loudoun campaign event.
Youngkin has also continually promised to ban critical race theory in schools if elected.
"We are going to bring Virginia together, where we build friendships, build neighborhoods,” he told a boisterous Richmond crowd on Monday. “Together. Not divisive."
Despite multiple endorsements from former President Donald Trump, and McAuliffe’s characterization of Youngkin as a “Trump wannabe, Youngkin distanced himself from the controversial politician.
"It’s just killing Trump that he’s not here obviously," McAuliffe said at a Virginia Beach campaign stop the weekend before the election. "He’s in the race -- he’s endorsed Youngkin seven different times. Trump is always going to claim credit for himself no matter what happens.”
Though he was careful to never denounce the former president, Youngkin chose not to participate in Monday’s tele-rally held by Trump. When asked why Youngkin evaded questions by saying the race was “about unity” and pointing out that his campaign had “more people helping us than you can possibly believe.”
"McAuliffe’s Trump-centric campaign just doesn’t seem as potent in a non-federal race with the former president no longer in the White House,” analysts Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman wrote in a pre-election report for U.V.A's Center for Politics.
Before his foray into politics, Youngkin spent 25 years with The Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm based in D.C. He served as CEO from 2018-2020, before stepping down in September of 2020 and announcing his candidacy for Virginia governor in January; he secured the Republican party’s nomination in May.
Youngkin spent his entire childhood in Virginia, moving from Richmond to Virginia Beach in his teens. He graduated from Virginia’s oldest private school, Norfolk Academy, in 1985. He double-majored in managerial studies and mechanical engineering during his undergrad years at Rice University and earned an MBA from Harvard in 1994.
Youngkin and his wife, Suzanne, have four children, whom they raised in northern Virginia. He has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including Virginia Ready Initiative – which he founded with his wife -- Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus Advisory Board, the Museum of the Bible, and the Meadowkirk Retreat Center.
McAuliffe conceded the race on Wednesday morning. He issued the following statement:
"While last night we came up short, I am proud that we spent this campaign fighting for the values we so deeply believe in. We must protect Virginia's great public schools and invest in our students. We must protect affordable health care coverage, raise the minimum wage faster, and expand paid leave so working families have a fighting shot. We must protect voting rights, protect a woman's right to choose, and, above all else, we must protect our democracy. While there will be setbacks along the way, I am confident that the long term path of Virginia is toward inclusion, openness and tolerance for all.
"Congratulations to Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin on his victory. I hope Virginians will join me in wishing the best to him and his family.
"I would like to thank my wife Dorothy, my family, and my incredible campaign team for their tireless efforts and dedication over these past eleven months. And to all of my supporters across Virginia who knocked on millions of doors, made countless phone calls, and talked to their family, friends and neighbors: I am eternally grateful that you joined me on this journey to move Virginia forward.
"Serving as Virginia’s 72nd governor was the highest honor of my life, and I will never stop fighting to make our Commonwealth stronger and brighter for all."
Glenn Youngkin will be sworn in as Virginia’s next governor on Jan. 15, 2022.