After a long election, the results are in for Virginia’s off-off-year election, declaring a clean sweep for republicans statewide. Glenn Youngkin (R) defeated Terry McAuliffe (D) for governor, Winsome Sears (R) defeated Hala Ayala (D) for lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares (R) defeated Mark Herring (D) for attorney general. The governor’s race was consistently close, with averages provided by polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight showing 47.9% for Youngkin and 47% for McAuliffe. However, this .9 point lead in the polls ended up being a 2 point victory with Youngkin besting McAuliffe 50.6 to 48.6.
The McAuliffe campaign attempted to nationalize the governor's race, connecting himself to President Joe Biden – who won the state by 10 points last year – and attempting to tie Youngkin to Trump. On the other side, Youngkin ran a campaign focusing on education, attacks on critical race theory and economic anxiety. This strategy seemed effective, driving a turnout in rural Virginia which was not matched in the cities or in more liberal Northern Virginia. Nolan Coughlin ’25, a prospective government and international relations major, said the results were “disappointing but not a surprise.”
Coughlin highlighted a lack of enthusiasm in Falls Church, his home town, as what led him to his expectation.
“I saw the [McAuliffe] campaign going downhill with signs and enthusiasm and other anecdotal things like that were very low from past elections,” Coughlin said.
In the local area, Williamsburg went for McAuliffe 3,203 votes to 1752, while James City County swung the opposite direction with 21,237 votes to 18,833 for Youngkin.
Micheal Zessin ’23, a government student at the College, highlighted this strategy as a key for Youngkin’s victory.
“Youngkin kept the Trump wing faithful, without embracing Trump,” Zessin said. “They never appeared together, and Youngkin was really good at never insulting or embracing that group… Youngkin ran a very good campaign, and juggled more extreme elements and moderates well, but this was a McAuliffe loss. If he stuck to state issues and ran a normal governor campaign instead of focusing on nation issues, he would have won.”
In the end, it seems McAuliffe was not able to defy history a second time; in 2013, he was the only candidate of the sitting president's party to win the governorship in 44 years, but in 2021, his loss to Youngkin means Virginia will be a red state once again.