2024-07-20 9:49 PM

Virginia 2021: The Race for History, Numbers and Trends

By Marrett Ceo; Special To The News-Press

With Labor Day now behind us in 2021, the Virginia campaign for the three statewide campaigns, Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, along with all 100 members of the House of Delegates, is in full swing and early voting has now begun. Parades, events, phone banks, speeches, video ads, VIP visits and possible door to door canvassing is expected to ramp up until Election Day on November 2. However this statewide election will definitely be like no other of its kind since possibly 1989.


Virginia has a lot of pressure when it comes to elections and trends. Unlike neighboring states like West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina for example, Virginia has a statewide/local or national race every single year. Additionally, unlike most other states that elect governors in even numbered years, only VIrginia and New Jersey elect their chief executives in odd numbered years. What happened in the statewide elections in the past tends to foretell what happens in the next year’s congressional races across the nation.


Former Governor Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, is hoping to become only the first person since Mills Godwin to be elected again as Virginia governors cannot run for consecutive terms. Godwin was elected both in 1965 and in 1973. Godwin’s first election was as a Democrat before switching to the Republican party that year.


Glenn Youngkin, a former CEO of hedge fund The Carlyle Group and the GOP opponent is a political novice to Virginia and national politics, running for office for the first time. He bested six other candidates in several rounds of a primary earlier the summer. Two of his opponents included a former House Speaker and a state senator from the Richmond area.


According to recent data by The Washington Post and the Schar School for Public Policy at George Mason University, McAuliffe is up by 3 points among likely voters 50-47 percent, with a slightly wider range of 6 points among registered voters. President Biden won Virginia by 10 points in 2020, and outgoing Gov. Ralph S. Northam won by 9 points in 2017. At their first debate on September 16 at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy Va., McAuliffe went after Youngkin as an extremist because of ties to Trump, Youngkin’s apparent plan to ban abortion, his antivaccine policy and record of sending jobs overseas at Carlyle. Youngkin tried hard to come across as more moderate, that he has encouraged people to get vaccinated and says that he is against the Texas abortion ban (even though on tape caught saying he would like to ban abortion).


One trend that has usually been the norm in Virginia, since the 1970s, is that the party which controls the White House, loses the governor’s race in Virginia the next year. This fact has been true and consistent, until McAuliffe was able to stop the trend in his first election in 2013.


According to the poll, voters right now who usually vote in elections right now are pretty much evenly split, 49 percent leaning towards McAuliffe and 47 percent for Youngkin. McAuliffe does hold a commanding 18 percent lead among voters who said they will probably vote 50-50, and 48 percent of people polled didn’t know anything about Youngkin. Two thirds of the people polled also were following the governor’s race very closely and informed well.


If McAuliffe wants to repudiate California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his successful election in the recent recall election where Democratic enthusiasm and turnout was paramount to Newsom holding onto his job, McAuliffe must keep those factors forefront, along with strong fundraising to hold onto his slight lead or even watch it grow going into November 2. In 2017, both of the candidates for governor, now Gov. Ralph Northam and then-nominee Ed Gillespie raised a combined $66 million. To date, McAuliffe and Youngkin have raised $67,138,002 according to the non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project. Princess Blanding, an independent, has raised $21,856.


However, with President Biden’s poll numbers in the mid 40s amid rising Covid 19 numbers and a catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal, along with former President Donald Trump out of office and not attending any local rallies, could lead a possible path for Youngkin to close the gap and/or squeak ahead of McAuliffe in the closing days of the campaign.


Down the ballot in the lieutenant governor’s race, no matter who wins, it will be a woman presiding in the president’s chair in the state senate chamber. Former GOP Delegate Winsome Sears of Hampton Roads faces off against current Del. Hala Ayala of Woodbridge. Ayala won a six way primary in June for her nomination, Sears went through a similar nomination in May. Ayala, is a cybersecurity specialist from Prince William County, and was elected in the 2017 blue wave that brought 15 women to the House, while Sears chose not to run for a second term and also unsuccessfully challenged US Rep. Bobby Scott and also was director of a woman’s shelter. Outgoing Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, the second African American elected to statewide office since Wilder, lost in the June primary to McAuliffe and will cede to the winner of the race.


Only one woman in Virginia history has served in statewide office: Mary Sue Terry, who was attorney general for two terms. She won on the tickets with then.-Gov. Gerald Baliles and then-Gov. Doug Wilder, before losing her own run for governor in 1993. Two other women have also run for lieutenant governor, former US Rep. Leslie Byrne in 2005, and former Secretary of FInance Jody Wagner. They both lost their respective races to former lieutenant governor Bill Bolling.


The Attorney General’s race pits another member of the House of Delegates versus a Democrat who would make history. Normally, if one party controls the AG office and not the lieutenant governor’s, it can be expected that the two office holders then will run and most likely secure their parties’ nominations. If one party controls both down ballot offices, usually both office holders reach a personal agreement, where one will run for governor, while the other may seek re-election. If the office holder who runs for governor wins, the agreement is he/she will support the other candidate to avoid a nasty intra party nomination process.


Perfect examples of both of these include 2017, when Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring agreed that Northam would run for governor and Herring would run again for re-election. A similar agreement happened in 2009, when then-Lt. Gov. Bolling ran for re-election, while Attorney General Robert McDonnell ran for governor and Bolling supported him. The favor was supposed to be returned in 2013 when Bolling was preparing to run for governor. Republicans expected then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to run for reelection. Cuccinelli surprised many when he decided to run for governor and his supporters secured a convention style nomination which favored his candidacy and Bolling withdrew and didn’t run for a third term.


Herring could make history by securing an unprecedented third term. No Democrat has done this since Abram Penn Staples, who served from 1934-1947 when he resigned to be appointed to be judge of the Virginia Court of Appeals.
Herring, a former state senator and Loudoun County supervisor, was expected to be in the primary for governor, and originally he announced he was. But the combination of a blackface scandal involving Northam and Herring himself, added to the addition of McAuliffe and Fairfax (who was engulfed in a scandal of his own), and other candidates proved to be too crowded in a very expensive primary. McAuliffe, going in would have had both the name recognition, as well as known results and even some incumbency and a tremendous fundraising advantage.


Challenging Herring is Del. Jason Miyares. His family fled Cuba when he was younger, he formerly was a city of Virginia Beach prosecutor. Miyares also was the campaign manager for Scott Rigell in 2010 when Rigell defeated then-US Rep. Glenn Nye in the 2nd congressional district. The Virginia State Bar hosted a debate between Miyares and Herring shortly after each candidate won their respective primaries.

On Wednesday October 13, Herring and Miyares will be hosted by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce for their first debate since June at The National Conference Center in Leesburg. Anyone wanting to attend the event should contact the Chamber on their Facebook page or directly through their website

In addition to the statewide races, all 100 seats of the House of Delegates, this time in a Democratic majority, the first in over 20 years, are up after retaking both the House and Senate in 2019. Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority and several of the seats in northern Virginia are contested. According to the non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project, the House Democratic Caucus contributed $2,675, 242 in donations to supported candidates and incumbents, while the House Republican Campaign Committee has contributed $312, 311 this year.

In an email, former Republican US senator George Allen, (who defeated Terry in 1993), served as governor from 1994-1998, said he first supported former House Speaker Kirk Cox in his bid for governor. After meeting with Youngkin for 3 hours this past spring, Allen was impressed by Youngkin’s life story, personality and desire to improve education/training and public safety for Virginians among other issues. “Glenn is a strong, well funded candidate with a lot ofenthusiastic support looking for constructive, positive change,” Allen said.

Similarly, with regards to Sears and Miyares personal stories, Allen believes their strong energy, personal backgrounds will appeal to voters in the final weeks until November 2. “There’s no doubt that appreciation and love of freedom is in Jason’s blood, heart and mind. I strongly suspect that when voters get to know Jason and compare him to the current Attorney General, he will prevail.”

Democratic US Sen. Tim Kaine, himself also a former governor from 2006-2010, believes the race will be very tight. Kaine’s concern is turnout the year after the presidential election. He added that he voted early this past Monday in his hometown of Richmond, the second day of early voting in Virginia, where the registrar’s office responded that turnout for early voting was high. Regardless of this, Kaine added “we have got a lot of work to do.”

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