(The Center Square) – Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s 2021 race for governor in a night when Republicans swept the commonwealth’s statewide races, according to projections.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Youngkin received 51% of the vote with McAuliffe at 48%. Analysts projected a Youngkin win with not enough outstanding votes remaining for McAuliffe to overcome his GOP challenger.
"Together we will change the trajectory of the commonwealth and friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one," he told supporters early Wednesday.
Early on in the race, most analysts predicted that McAuliffe would win the state that President Joe Biden took by 10 percentage points over Donald Trump last year. Momentum swung in Youngkin’s favor in the final weeks of the race when he prioritized parents' rights in having a say in their children's education.
Youngkin's victory breaks a brief two-year period in which Democrats had full control of state government and ends a Republican drought in statewide elections. It indicates a reversal of recent trends in the commonwealth, which had been drifting toward being a Democratic stronghold.
Youngkin, a former CEO of the Carlyle Group, is a newcomer to politics. Although he has never held political office, he campaigned on his experience in business and said he knows how to make deals that will benefit Virginians. He also managed to toe the line on former President Donald Trump by accepting Trump’s endorsement and making election integrity a campaign priority to keep the Trump base happy, but accepting Biden’s victory as legitimate and not taking Trump on the campaign trail to keep moderates and independents on his side.
In the last weeks of the election, polls showed that Youngkin had substantial support from Republicans, independents and parents with children in K-12 education. He campaigned hard against McAuliffe’s decision to veto legislation that would have required teachers to notify parents of sexually explicit material in the curriculum and ran advertisements that played McAuliffe’s now-infamous debate comment, in which the Democrat said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Youngkin also campaigned on tax cuts, which earned him support from small business associations, including the National Federation of Independent Business. He said he would eliminate the sales tax on groceries, suspend the five-cent increase on gas taxes and use the state’s surplus to provide a one-time $300 tax rebate. He promised to defend right-to-work protections in the state and called for a more diversified energy sector, in opposition to McAuliffe’s plan to accelerate the elimination of all carbon-emitting energy sources.
Winsome Sears, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, also won her race by a similar margin. With 95% of the vote reporting, Sears secured 51% of the total vote and her opponent, Democrat Hala Ayala tallied 49% of the vote.
Jason Miyares, the Republican candidate for attorney general, also won his race and unseated two-term incumbent Democrat Mark Herring. With 95% of the vote reporting, Miyares secured 51% to Herring's 49%.