Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe in tight race for governor
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Voters in Virginia will cast ballots Tuesday in an off-year election for statewide offices and the House of Delegates, with Republicans trying to reclaim power in a state that has been trending Democratic over the past decade.
Topping the ballot will be the race for governor, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe is trying to reclaim the office he held from 2014 to 2018 in a race against Republican Glenn Youngkin, an multi-millionaire private equity executive making his first run for political office. Late polling has shown the race as a statistical dead heat.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, Democratic State Delegate Hala Ayala from Prince William County will be facing off against Winsome Sears, a Republican businesswoman and former legislator from Winchester. The winner will be the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor in state history; Ayala would also be the first Hispanic candidate to win the job.
Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking a third term against Republican State Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach, the son of a Cuban immigrant who would be the state’s first Hispanic attorney general.
Also at stake Tuesday is control of the House of Delegates, where Democrats currently hold a 55-to-45 majority. The State Senate, which Democrats control 21-to-19, is not up for election this year.
In-person polling opens Tuesday at 6 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.
This year’s election will be the first since Democrats took control of both houses of the legislature in 2019 and embarked on a series of policy changes that drastically altered the political complexion of the Old Dominion.
The Democratic majority abolished the death penalty, legalized recreational marijuana, imposed background checks for gun purchases, eliminated waiting periods for abortions, protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment and housing, and gave cities and counties the green light to remove Confederate monuments.
Legislators even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it.
Republicans are hoping that a backlash to Democrats’ shift to the left in Richmond will allow them to flip the House and win the commonwealth’s three statewide offices, which Democrats have swept in the last two elections.
Once reliably Republican, Virginia has shifted toward the Democrats over the last decade. Both U.S. senators are Democrats, as are seven of its 11 members of Congress, and the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the commonwealth was George W. Bush in 2004.
Still, history may be on Youngkin’s side: The Virginia governor’s race is held in the off-year after presidential elections, and since the days of Richard Nixon, the party that won the White House has lost the governorship every time — except in 2013, when McAuliffe won a year after Barack Obama did.
A loss by McAuliffe would reverberate in Washington, where Democrats have been struggling to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda. McAuliffe has conceded during the campaign that Biden’s popularity has waned in Virginia, although he still brought both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in to campaign with him.
By contrast, Youngkin has not invited former President Donald Trump into the state to campaign with him in person, even avoiding a rally where Trump phoned in an appearance. Trump lost Virginia to Biden by 10 points in 2020.
Virginia governors are limited to a single term, and McAuliffe is trying to become just the second person to reclaim the office for a second time. (The first was Republican Miles Godwin, who served from 1966 to 1970 and 1974 to 1978.)
While the Senate will remain in Democratic hands after Tuesday, the lieutenant governor presides over the chamber, which could cause a wrinkle for Democrats if Sears defeats Ayala.