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Glenn Youngkin, Republicans sweep all 3 Virginia statewide races

Youngkin beats Democrat Terry McAuliffe in governor’s race; Republicans also win races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, on track to flip House of Delegates

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Republican Glenn Youngkin claimed Virginia’s governorship in Tuesday’s off-year election, defeating Democratic insider Terry McAuliffe in an embarrassing loss for Democrats just a year after President Joe Biden swept to a 10-point win in the Old Dominion.

Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin addresses supporters

Republicans also won the lieutenant governorship and defeated two-term Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring. GOP legislative candidates also appear to have flipped enough seats to take control of the House of Delegates.

For the past two years, Democrats have controlled all of the levers of power in Richmond, ushering in a series of liberal polity initiatives that incensed conservatives; come January, Democrats will control only the State Senate, by just a single vote.

Youngkin, a wealthy private equity executive making his first run for political office, took 51% to 48% for McAuliffe, who was trying to return to the governor’s seat he held from 2014 to 2018.

Speaking to jubilant supporters, Youngkin called his victory “a defining moment that is now millions of Virginians walking together.”

“We are going to change the trajectory of this commonwealth,” he said. “It’s time for Virginia to be the place where everyone wants to live, not leave — where the relentless pursuit for a better life, for prosperity, is not burdened or blocked by self-interested politicians.”

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republican Winsome Sears, a businesswoman and former state delegate, defeated Democratic State Delegate Hala Ayala by a margin of 51% to 49% percent. She will be the first woman and woman of color to hold the state’s second-highest office, which includes presiding over the closely divided State Senate, which was not up for election Tuesday.

In the attorney general’s race, Republican State Delegate Jason Miyares defeated Herring by a margin of 51% to 49% percent, giving Republicans a post from which to launch legal challenges against Biden administration policies.

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates were up on Tuesday, with Democrats holding a 55-to-45 majority. With 10 races still undecided, Republicans had won or were leading in races for 51 seats, with Democrats winning or leading in 49, which would give the GOP a one-seat majority.

Youngkin had been endorsed by Donald Trump, although he did not invite the former president to come to Virginia to campaign for him.

McAuliffe hung Trump’s endorsement around Youngkin’s neck, hoping antipathy to Trump in the Washington D.C. suburbs would sink his chances statewide. But Youngkin used cultural issues and parental anger over school policies to outperform Trump in suburban areas and also increased Republican margins in areas Trump won, which could be a GOP blueprint for 2022.

This year’s election was 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 used the backlash to Democrats’ shift to the left in Richmond that allowed them to flip the House and win the commonwealth’s three statewide offices.

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 was 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.

McAuliffe loss is likely to  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.

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Atlanta mayor’s race highlights city elections across the South

Voters will also pick mayors in St. Petersburg, Miami and Durham

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

(CFP) — Voters in four large Southern cities will decide elections for city offices Tuesday, with a highly competitive mayor’s race in Atlanta the marquee race of the night.

In addition to Atlanta, mayoral elections will be held in St. Petersburg and Miami, Florida, and Durham, North Carolina.

In Atlanta, where incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not seek re-election, her predecessor as mayor, Kasim Reed, is trying to make a comeback in a 14-person race. His main competitors are City Council President Felicia Moore and City Councilman Andre Dickens.

If no one wins a majority, the top two candidates will compete in a November 30 runoff.

The race has focused on rising violent crime in the city and Reed’s previous time as mayor, with several former aides convicted or facing corruption charges. Reed himself has not been charged, but critics say the ethical problems in his previous administration should be disqualifying.

Bottoms, who led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Joe Biden last year, surprised the political world in May when she announced that she would not seek another term as mayor.

In St. Petersburg, where Mayor Rick Kriseman is term limited, former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch faces City Council member Robert Blackmon, who advanced to Tuesday’s vote after coming out on top the first round of voting in August.

While city elections in St. Petersburg are officially non-partisan, Welch is a Democrat and Blackmon is a Republican, and the race has taken on a partisan hue, with endorsements from party leaders on both sides..

Welch led during the first round of voting, with 39% to 28% for Blackmon.

In Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez is a heavy favorite to win re-election against four little known candidates.

In Durham, where Mayor Steve Schewel did not seek re-election, Elaine O’Neal, a former judge and law professor, is expected to become the first black woman elected to lead the city.

She won 86% in the first round of voting in October, prompting the second-place candidate, City Council member Javiera Caballero, to suspend her campaign. However, both will still be on Tuesday’s ballot.

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Virginians decide statewide, legislative races in Tuesday vote

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.

Virginia governor candidates Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe

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.

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Candidates for Virginia governor square off in first debate


Posted September 19 (From WUSA via YouTube)

Big Risk: Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott double down on mandates despite unpredictability of COVID crisis

Will short-term gain for leading charge against COVID-19 restrictions backfire if cases surge in schools?

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CFP Red Blue Circle(CFP) — A number of Southern Republican political leaders — most notably, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott — have decided to take a huge gamble; namely, to lead the charge against new COVID-19 restrictions, despite the Delta variant ripping across their states, filling up hospitals and stretching front-line workers to their breaking point.

It’s an experiment — literally — that is particularly risky given that one of the populations being experimented are hundreds of thousands of school children, whose parents cannot get them COVID-19 vaccinations even if they want to.

desantis_abbott

Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas

If DeSantis and Abbott are right — that all of the doomsaying and caterwauling by public health officials is an overblown overreaction — their gamble is likely to delight their base and pay dividends when they come up for re-election next year.

But if they are wrong — if busloads of children start getting sick or dying — these current prohibitive favorites could find themselves in electoral trouble. Which begs the question, is it worth the risk?

To see the possible pitfalls of this strategy, one need only look at the school district in Marion, Arkansas, where, after just the first week of classes in August, 900 students and staff were in quarantine.

That was enough to convince Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson that his decision back in April to sign into law a ban on mask mandates, pushed through by Republican lawmakers, was a mistake. It was not, however, enough to convince those lawmakers to reverse the mask ban when Hutchinson summoned them back to Little Rock for a special session to do so.

To be clear, neither DeSantis and Abbott are anti-vaxxers. On the other hand, they are not merely taking a personal political stand against mask and vaccine mandates — they are aggressively pushing back against local officials and even private businesses who want to put these measures into place themselves.

Two hallmarks of traditional conservatism are giving power to local officials to make decisions they think best for their communities (particularly school boards) and giving businesses free hand to run their enterprises as they see fit. Both have gone out the window amid a conservative backlash to mask and vaccine mandates, a wave which DeSantis and Abbott seem eager to ride.

DeSantis has gone so far as to oppose hospitals requiring staff on the front lines of the pandemic to get vaccinations, and he has gone to court to block cruise lines from requiring vaccinations for passengers, which the cruise companies desperately want.

Given the devastating outbreaks of COVID-19 among cruise ship passengers during the early days of the pandemic, cruise companies want to err on the side of caution; DeSantis is coming down instead on the side of an expansive sense of personal liberty, even at the expense of public health.

Both Abbott and DeSantis are responding to a part of their base that is skeptical of vaccines and vehemently opposed to mask mandates and lockdowns. Some of these people even argue that masks are harmful for children, an assertion not supported by any reputable medical research.

The irony, of course, if that if these people had gotten vaccinated, the COVID-19 might now be mostly over, eliminating the possibility of mandates or lockdowns.

It makes sense, with perverted logic, for people who believe COVID is a hoax to support dispensing with restrictions even though most people are still unvaccinated. But if the last 18 months have taught Abbott and DeSantis anything, it is surely that COVID isn’t a hoax.

Abbott is facing primary challengers who already complain that he’s taken too many COVID precautions, perhaps explaining why he’s so resistant to more. DeSantis is not yet being primaried on this issue, so taking a hard line here is perhaps a way to stopping a challenge from getting off the ground — not to mention helping him with a possible 2024 presidential run.

Still, a recent Florida polled showed DeSantis’s job approval under water, in a state where the last three governor’s races were decided by 1 point or less. Texas is more Republican but not out of reach for Democrats if the public comes to believe people have died needlessly under Abbott’s stewardship.

Two other facts call into question the wisdom of DeSantis and Abbott’s big risk.

First, the fallout from the COVID pandemic likely cost Donald Trump re-election, something even the former president has been willing to concede. So, perhaps this is a lesson to which more attention needs to be paid.

And second, COVID has proven to not only be tremendously deadly but highly unpredictable. So, climbing out on a political limb and hoping that the worst public health crisis in a century will turn out all right in the end would seem a dubious long-term strategy, even if the base lustily cheers in the short term.

However, for better or worse, both DeSantis and Abbott have embraced this risk. So in that bed they will now have to lie.

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