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Youngkin leads GOP sweep of top Virginia offices

<p>The Executive Mansion, the official residence of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.</p>

The Executive Mansion, the official residence of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This story originally ran on the Capital News Service on Nov. 2. 

Republican Glenn Youngkin narrowly won the race for Virginia’s governor with 51.05% of the votes, defeating former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Youngkin managed to win the highly contested seat despite Democrats’ best efforts to liken him to former President Donald Trump. Youngkin dodged comparisons to Trump and avoided events where the former president endorsed him, trying to appease both Trump supporters and moderates driven away from the party.

This win represents a shift in Virginia politics since a Republican has not won the governor’s office since 2010. In last year’s presidential election, Joseph Biden won Virginia by almost 10 points

In Chantilly, Youngkin gave remarks to his supporters after media outlets called the race near 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Together we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth,” Youngkin said at his victory party, “and friends we are going to start that transformation on day one.” 

Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, former President Barack Obama and Georgia Democrat Stacy Abrams came to Virginia to stump for McAuliffe in the last stretch of the campaign, yet the star-studded rallies couldn’t keep the gubernatorial seat blue.

Youngkin remained in the lead for most of the evening, causing concern among Democrats across the country. McAuliffe gave remarks to his supporters a little after 10 p.m. Tuesday, reassuring them that the election wasn’t over. Shortly after, The New York Times reported that he was not planning to speak later tonight.

“We still got a lot of vote to count, we have about 18% of the vote out,” McAuliffe said. “We’re going to continue to count the votes because every single Virginian deserves to have their vote counted.”

Princess Blanding of the Liberation Party got 22,055 of the votes, even though she was excluded from both gubernatorial debates, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. 

Republicans are likely to sweep the rest of Virginia’s statewide offices. Winsome Sears is set to win the largely ceremonial lieutenant governor’s office with 51.17% of the votes, according to the Virginia Department of Election. This is the first time a woman of color was elected to statewide office. 

“Hold on Virginia,” Sears said Wednesday morning at Youngkin’s victory party. “Help is on the way, and the cavalry has arrived.”

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Virginia Beach Del. Jason Miyares appears to have defeated Attorney General Mark Herring, who has been in office since 2014, with 50.84% of the vote, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Miyares is the first Latino to win this office.

The Virginia governor’s election is widely regarded as a bellwether for midterm Congressional elections. 

Although there is a positive correlation between the swing in the Virginia gubernatorial race and U.S. House vote margin that could possibly signal the direction of midterm elections next year, the average difference is a little under seven points, according to FiveThirtyEight. Recent polling showed the race too tight to predict a clear winner. 

Issues such as race in schools, vaccine mandates and abortion dominated races across the state. Youngkin made Critical Race Theory and parental choice in schools a central campaign issue despite the theory not being taught in Virginia schools, while McAuliffe has repeatedly called himself as a “brick wall” protecting women’s rights since Texas passed strict abortion restrictions, effectively banning the procedure, in September. 

About 1.2 million people across the state voted early this year, compared to nearly 196,000 early voters in 2017. The increase follows changes in voting practices with the Covid-19 pandemic and encouragement from both Democrats and Republicans to vote early. 

Contact Capital News Service reporter and visual staff member Madyson Fitzgerald at madyson.fitzgerald@richmond.edu. Contact Capital News Service reporter and multimedia/investigative editor Jackie Llanos at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu. Contact Capital News Service reporter and City & State editor Eileen Pomeroy at eileen.pomeroy@richmond.edu.

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