CHANTILLY, Va. — Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday to become the next governor of Virginia. The race is widely seen as a bellwether for far-left Democrat policy priorities, specifically the party’s radical positions on education. Those include COVID school closures, critical race theory, targeting parents who speak out against school boards, and — in Virginia’s Loudoun County — covering up alleged incidents of sexual assault that cast doubt on transgender policies.
Youngkin gave a victory speech to his supporters in Chantilly in the early hours of the morning, promising to “change the trajectory of this commonwealth.” McAuliffe came out around 10:30 p.m. and told his supporters to go home, but did not concede the race.
As of this morning, CNN’s elections results tracker predicts a Youngkin win by 51-48 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. The RealClearPolitics tracker shows the same margin of victory for Youngkin, with 94 percent of precincts reporting.
At his returns party Tuesday night, Youngkin promised to “restore excellence to our schools” and “embrace our parents, not ignore them,” meeting cheers from the audience. Before he came onstage, the gathering opened with a prayer and a short speech from Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears, who told supporters “What you are looking at is the American Dream. … I am living proof.”
“We just saw one of the probably biggest upsets in the history of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin beating who was an incumbent previously, Terry McAuliffe,” First Vice Chair of the Fairfax County Republican Committee Sean Rastatter told The Federalist in the excited minutes following Youngkin’s victory speech. “This is a bellwether for the rest of the entire country in 2022.”
“The energy in there is amazing right now,” added Maggie Guilfoyle.
Virginia resident Wyly Walker noted that “nobody thought it was possible six months ago but here we are today, he’s gonna be the next governor of Virginia.”
“For the last six months, eight months, nine months, it began, I don’t think there’s a chance. Then it was like, ‘Okay, hold on, this guy’s really got something special.’ And then we saw the numbers start to change,” Walker said. “As of this morning I was like, ‘Maybe it could happen, I don’t know.’ But as the day went on, things changed, and here we are.”
Walking out after hearing Youngkin’s victory speech, Angela Vargias and Astrid Gamez emphasized education and the sexual abuse cover-ups in Loudoun County as important election issues to them.
Mary Campbell said she wasn’t at all surprised about the outcome and that Youngkin’s faith, stance on education, and support for law enforcement were key issues for her. “When I met Glenn Younkin in January, I’d already endorsed Kirk Cox. And when I met Glenn Younkin, I went, this guy is the real deal,” she said. “His love of God really impresses me.”
“Absolutely education” was a vital issue, she added. “The other big one for me was law enforcement.”
Enthusiasm surged among tally-watchers at the Youngkin victory party, vibrating the ballroom floor. Chants of “Call it!” could be heard as early as 10 p.m., along with multiple bursts of “Let’s go Brandon” around the room. One woman stood in her chair dancing as good news rolled in from the screens at the front of the room, and the crowd booed whenever the news cut to clips of McAuliffe, President Joe Biden, or Vice President Kamala Harris.
Supporters sported everything from red MAGA hats to elephant-embroidered khakis to a cowboy hat to one young man in a white blazer printed with blue stars and red slacks. A man dressed as George Washington and carrying a giant American flag walked around the ballroom as the final results trickled in.
“This is like 2016 for me,” one African-American woman in red, white, and blue stripes shouted over her shoulder to me early in the evening.
“I used to be a liberal Democrat but even then I didn’t like McAuliffe,” said Youngkin supporter John Gilanshah.
Before the results started pouring in, Dewey Ritchie, a retired law enforcement officer and current member of the Board of Supervisors in Rockingham County, Va., said he was “cautiously optimistic, and I do hope the man wins.” With two grandsons in Virginia public schools, he cited schools, taxes, and immigration as key issues for him, as well as Youngkin’s Christian faith. Larry Baer and Thomas James agreed they were “electrified” at the night’s prospects.
From Mechanicsville, Va., Tywana and Todd Hampton cited school choice and taxes as reasons they showed up to support Youngkin. Todd works in education, and they said they felt “extremely” optimistic about the race going into the night.
Lauren Haight also expressed optimism in Youngkin’s momentum before the results came in, explaining that “Medical freedom is huge for me. I respect the decisions of everybody. To do the research, to analyze the risk, and do what’s best for you.”
“My fear is that if Terry becomes governor, all of those choices are going to be continuously stripped away,” she added.
Another Youngkin supporter named Virginia noted, “Even some Democrats I know have voted Republican this year. So I’m guardedly optimistic.”
Nancy and Kevin Dye of Roanoke showed up with a broom to emphasize their confidence that the evening would be a “sweep” victory for Youngkin. Nancy, who was one of Youngkin’s statewide finance chairs, cited the economy, education, and law enforcement as key issues in her mind.
“It’s time for parents to stand up and take charge of their children’s education and not turn it over to the government,” Kevin added.
Polls over the past weeks and months showed Youngkin steadily gaining a lead, with a Fox News poll the week before the election showing Youngkin up by 8 points. The last update on RealClear’s polling aggregate showed Youngkin up by 1.7 points. McAuliffe’s initial lead vaporized over the summer, with polling showing the race a dead heat before Youngkin’s slim lead grew over the last several weeks.
Polling and voter enthusiasm suggest the race was less a microcosm of voters’ feelings about former President Trump — with whom Youngkin made no particular effort to align himself — and more a referendum on Democrats’ culture war, including their targeting of parents.
Education became a critical issue in the election as schools in Virginia skyrocketed to national attention amid parental outrage at a school board cover-up of alleged sexual assaults in Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools. Parents “backed McAuliffe by 10 points two weeks ago. Now, they go for Youngkin by 14,” Fox News reported last week.
Another poll last week showed education as the top issue for voters at 21 percent, with jobs in second at 15 percent. Youngkin promised in August to make banning COVID-19 lockdowns and the teaching of critical race theory in public schools part of his “Day One” plan.
NEW Virginia Poll
Terry McAuliffe: 48%
Glenn Youngkin: 48%
"What is the most important issue facing Virginia?"
#1 Education (21%)
#2 Jobs (15%)
#3 Covid-19 (14%)
#4 Healthcare (11%)
#5 Taxes (10%)
#6 Gun Control (6%)
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) October 25, 2021
Several lifelong Democrat voters who spoke to Fox News in October explained that they were voting for Youngkin because the Republican “is trying to collaborate with parents” while “McAuliffe and his people are trying to criminalize us.”
Attendees at a Loudoun County School Board meeting last week who spoke to The Federalist — and ranged from Republicans to independents to Democrats — also expressed their frustration with the failures of far-left education administrators.
Shawn Fleetwood contributed to this report.