Election 2021: Youngkin defeats McAuliffe in Virginia gubernatorial race


Republican gubernatorial candidate, Glenn Youngkin, speaks to supporters at a rally in Fredericksburg, Va. on Oct. 30, 2021 (Steve Helber | AP)

Follow along for live coverage of 2021 gubernatorial and mayoral races.

Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy wins New Jersey

Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy won against Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. 

Murphy became the first Democratic governor to win re-election in the state, despite Democratic voters outnumbering Republicans by more than 1 million in the state. 

With roughly 90 percent of the votes counted, Murphy beat Ciattarelli by less than one percentage point, according to the Associated Press. 

Despite Murphy receiving positive polling numbers earlier in the race, the race ended up being closer than most expected. 

By Nika Schoonover, 12:06 p.m.

After the race, high voter turnout in Virginia for a gubernatorial election

Virginia’s election boasts the highest election turnout for a gubernatorial election since 1997, with roughly 55% of the electorate casting votes according to CNBC.

The United States often sees much lower turnout for non-presidential elections despite the importance of state and midterm elections in determining key legislation.

The New York Times’ Astead Herndon reports that Democrats in Virginia have been attempting to place the blame on Black Virginians for low voter turnout, but argues that Biden has not been doing enough to support Black voters and make them passionate about the electoral process.

Herndon explains that “At the grass-roots level, voters in Newport News also said that their support for Mr. McAuliffe did not mean they were satisfied with the performance of Democrats in Washington.”

Even among Democratic voters who did vote, many of them showed up in opposition to Republican rule rather than in support of the Democratic party.

CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy found that the turnout among white men, white women with no college degrees and Evangelical Christians was higher for Youngkin than for Trump in 2020, suggesting that Youngkin may be a more favored representation of the Republican party.

Edwards-Levy reported that “Youngkin also carried male voters in this year’s election by a roughly 12-point margin, White women without college degrees by almost 50 points and White evangelicals by about 78 points.”

Virginia’s turnout was not surprising considering the importance of the election, possibly a reflection of an increasingly polarized political climate that has caused more voter participation since Trump’s election in 2016.

By Michael Boland, 12:07 p.m.

After the race, key coalitions in Virginia’s gubernatorial election

Terry McAuliffe conceded to Virginia Governor-elect, Glenn Youngkin, this morning.

He said, “I am proud that we spent this campaign fighting for the values we so deeply believe in.”

The final hook in the Republican’s campaign was a Sept. 29 ad in which his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” during a debate. 

From that point on in the race, Youngkin took the shape of the parent’s champion, fighting for their right to have a say in their children’s education.

“Education has been the new front as there’s pushback in particular against the idea of critical race theory and social justice being taught,” political science professor Wayne Steger said. 

“That, in the view of conservatives, privileges African Americans and liberals’ broader agenda.”

Education levels of the voters themselves took a strong hold over the polls yesterday. 

“What we’re seeing increasingly is college educated and advanced education people voting democratic and lower education people voting Republican,” Steger said. “That includes a little bit more African American and Hispanic males,” who largely voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

As the demographics of Northern Virginia have shifted over the last 40 years the area houses more highly educated people who tend to vote Democrat. A large platform for many Democrat politicians is addressing systemic racism in the country through education and advocating for codified change to bring equity to communities of color. 

During an appearance on Fox News Youngkin explains why he plans to ban these lessons, now known as critical race theory, taught in schools. 

“It teaches children to see everything through a lens of race and then to divide them into buckets,” Youngkin said. “It’s just wrong. It forces our kids to compete against one another and steals their dreams.”

By using terms like “critical race theory” and “social justice” the divide between parties becomes more staunch.

“What that becomes [is] a rallying cry for the right wing to turn out to vote and it’s going to be predominantly lower education whites, who find that messaging threatening,” Steger said.

So, Republicans in rural areas showed up at a much higher rate to support Youngkin than they did for Trump.

In his victory speech, Youngkin promised to “invest the largest education budget in the history of the commonwealth” and “introduce choice within [the] public school system.”

By Grace Ulch, 6:24 p.m.

New Jersey still too close to call

As election results start to be called in states like Virginia, New York and Massachusetts, New Jersey’s gubernatorial election is still too close to call. 

Nearly 90 percent of the vote has been reported, and incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli are neck-and-neck. For weeks, Democrats had been confident that the state would be theirs after weeks of polling reflected that Murphy had a strong lead in the polls. 

One possible factor in this shift in the results could be voter enthusiasm. Ocean County, the biggest red county in the state, saw massive turnout while Democrats did not show up to the polls in the same numbers in the state’s more Democratic, urban areas. 

At around 12:30 a.m. today, both candidates took the stage at their respective election night parties to tell their supporters that the election is not over until all the votes are counted. 

“But as I said: When every vote is counted — and every vote will be counted — we hope to have a celebration again,” Murphy said in Asbury Park’s Convention Hall. 

By Nika Schoonover, 3:13 p.m.

McAuliffe concedes, Youngkin takes the governorship amid higher turnout among Republicans

The Virginia gubernatorial election has been successful for the GOP as Glenn Youngkin won early this morning after Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe conceded, according to the Associated Press

This came after reports of a tight race between the two candidates and as Virginia recently voted for President Joe Biden during his campaign in 2020. 

Politico has created an interactive map to show where voters showed support for both candidates.

Map of Virginia’s election results. Youngkin wins with 51 percent of the vote (Created by Politico)

Youngkin’s votes mainly came from the rural areas of the state, with him winning the majority of the red counties by a wide margin. However, in a large space of red, the city of Roanoke voted 57.6 percent for McAuliffe, while the county still favored Youngkin with 65.9 percent of the vote.

McAuliffe’s votes mainly came from the suburbs of D.C. and areas surrounding Virginia Beach, Charlottesville and Richmond. Fairfax County, home to Alexandria, cast 64.7 percent of their votes for McAuliffe, while the city of Richmond had a larger margin at 77.2 percent. 

Virginia experienced the same voting trends in last year’s presidential election, where Biden won many of the same areas. According to Politico’s map, Biden and McAuliffe shared wins in the Virginia Beach area, D.C. suburbs and Charlottesville. The question for Democrats is how did they lose these supporters within a year? In the time between the 2020 Presidential election and the gubernatorial election, the Democrats lost key counties near D.C., Virginia Beach and Northampton county, which Biden won a year ago. While there were mutual areas that voted blue in 2020 and 2021, lower turnout in blue counties paved the way for Youngkin’s win.

Map depicts the results of the presidential election in Georgia. Biden won roughly 54 percent of the vote. (Created by Politico)

According to Forbes, one of the main issues that swayed voters was the candidates’ stances on education–particularly whether critical race theory should be taught in Virginia public schools and parents’ role in the education system. Youngkin has been outspoken about banning critical race theory in schools.

“What we won’t do is teach our children to view everything through the lens of race. On day one, I will ban critical race theory,” Youngkin said at a campaign event in Glen Allen last month.

According to McAuliffe’s website, there is no indication that if elected he would’ve changed the way critical race theory was taught in schools, which may have swayed voters to Youngkin. 

By Katie Kostelic, 3:04 p.m.

Atlanta mayoral race goes to a runoff, Moore and Dickens will face-off

Atlanta’s mayoral race will go to a runoff election after no candidate was able to garner the 50 percent majority of the vote that is required under Georgia state law. 

According to WABE, Atlanta’s public radio, Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore received 41 percent of the vote, city councilman Andre Dickens received 23 percent and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed finished right behind Dickens with 22 percent. According to Fox 5 Atlanta, Reed has not conceded the race.

Under Georgia state law, if a candidate does not exceed the 50 percent threshold in general election voting, a runoff between the top two candidates will take place. 

After 96,122 votes were cast on election day, the city decided a runoff is necessary to secure its new mayor. 

The runoff is going to take place Nov. 30 and, since Moore and Dickens received the majority of votes, they will be competing against each other. There were 14 candidates overall on the ballot, none of them finished higher than 7 percent within the race out of the 180 precincts, according to 11alive

With a rise in crime, especially during the pandemic under current Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Moore and Dickens ran a campaign behind the issues of public safety. They both support hiring more police officers to combat the crime taking place within the city.  The winner will be Bottoms’ replacement, since she announced she will not be seeking another term in office.   

By Joshua Hicks, 3:02 p.m.

Virginians elect Winsome Sears as first Black woman Lieutenant Governor

Republican candidate Winsome Sears has defeated Democratic challenger Hala Ayala for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Sears’ victory comes as no surprise as Republicans swept the top of the ticket with Glenn Youngkin elected Governor and Jason Miyares as Attorney General.

“It’s a historic night, but I didn’t run to make history, I just wanted to leave it better than I found it,” Winsome Sears said in her victory speech to a packed rally in Chantilly, Virginia, early Wednesday morning.  

Jamaican-born Sears is the first woman of color to hold the Commonwealth’s second-highest office. Her lieutenant governorship marks a comeback after serving one term as a delegate in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. 

“What you’re looking at is the American Dream,” Sears said. “When I joined the Marine Corps, I was still a Jamaican. But this country did so much for me that I was willing to die for this country.”

In a race in which the top of the Republican ticket sought to distance himself from former President Trump, Sears touted her position as former national chairperson for the Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump on her campaign website. Other issues on which she campaigned included increasing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, lowering taxes and increasing public safety.

By Maureen Dunne, 12:16 a.m. 

Republican Glenn Youngkin defeats Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia gubernatorial race

Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe in the race for Virginia governor, the Associated Press reported. 

The race signifies an end to the long losing streak for Republicans in the state with Youngkin being the first Republican to win the governorship since 2009. The election, however, follows a historical trend of Virginians voting for the opposite party in odd-year elections. Since 1977, Virginia has only elected governors of the out-party in the White House. The only exception was in 2013, when Terry McAuliffe was elected governor a year after former President Barack Obama’s reelection. 

A loss for Democrats, the Republican win in Virginia may be a signifier of what is to come in the 2022 midterms. At a time when both parties will be vying for a majority in Congress, the gubernatorial race in Virginia may be an indicator that Republicans will have a strong presence in next year’s elections. 

As for right now, Democrats still hold a 21-19 majority in the Virginia State Senate and Youngkin will likely have trouble pushing his agenda. Among his top priorities are eliminating critical race theory in public schools, eliminating a variety of taxes and increasing teacher pay. Most of these proposals will require approval from the legislature. 

By Nika Schoonover, 12:07 a.m.

Progressive Michelle Wu wins Boston mayoral race after competitor Anissa Essaibi George concedes.

“I know this is no small feat, you know this is no small feat,” Essaibi George said in her concession.  “I want her to show this city how mothers get it done.” 

Wu marks Boston history as the first female and Asian American to be elected to office as mayor.

“I want to be clear; it wasn’t my vision on the ballot, it was ours,” Wu said in her victory speech.  “Over 10 years in City Hall and in every neighborhood, connecting with all of our residents, I’ve seen and experienced just how big an impact local government makes in peoples’ lives.”  

The nation celebrates the monumental city history alongside Bostonians and anticipates Wu’s action to combat the leading issues of the city. 

Wu’s plans include advocacy for rent control, Covid-19 relief money for communities, police accountability, free fares for Boston public transportation and reforms to address climate change. 

Polls closed at 8 p.m. and mail-in ballots continue to be confirmed as Wu leads with 46,990 votes over 29,963 votes for Essaibi George, according to polls from The New York Times.

By Isabelle Bohanek, 11:10 p.m.

Byron Brown, a write-in candidate, declared victory in Buffalo’s mayoral race

After losing to Democratic candidate India Walton in the June Democratic Primary, incumbent Byron Brown running as a write-in candidate, has declared victory for the 2021 Buffalo mayoral election. The independent candidate Brown made his winning declaration in front of his campaign headquarters in front of a crowd of supporters. 

“At the very beginning, they said we couldn’t win; it was impossible to win as a write-in. But you know, you can’t ever count a Buffalonian out,” Brown said in a speech in front of his voters.

Currently, approximately 70 percent of the votes have been accounted for, and Brown leads Walton by a 20 percent margin — close to 35,000 votes. 

Brown’s looming win marks a record for the city of Buffalo, with Brown reaching his fifth term as mayor, after being tied fourth with late mayor James Griffin. 

“The Walton-Brown race is the rare story of an entrenched incumbent who took voters for granted in the primary and has since run a spirited general election campaign in a predominantly Democratic, though not especially liberal, city,” HuffPost reporter Daniel Marans wrote. 

At the Democratic Committee headquarters, Walton made comments following the results of the election. 

I am extremely proud of the campaign that we have run,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing the final results come in, and I am looking forward to working with all of our current city electives and all of the winners tonight and community members to advance a healthy and safer Buffalo for all.”

Brown as a write-in candidate had been observed backing the support of more independents, and moderate Republicans. Brown’s next moves will be observed in the weeks to come.

“It does open up other options for him. He cobbled together this coalition that helped him, despite not having the backing of the Democratic party,” said political analyst Christopher Lee on WGRZ. “Though I do think he will try to recapture that democratic support he might have lost.”

By Gianfranco Ocampo, 11:01 p.m.

Education as leading issue in Virginia gubernatorial race

At the crux of one of the country’s most consequential and high-profile gubernatorial races is the fallout of the initiatives by Loudoun County Public Schools, with some parents suing the school board over the district’s equity initiatives. The two candidates disagree on everything, from who should be allowed to use girls’ or boys’ bathrooms, to whether or not to restrict reading materials in Virginia schools.

Their campaigns heavily criticized each other, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe calling the battle over critical race theory, a legal framework that examines how systemic racism continues to blossom, a “racist dog whistle.”

Republican Glenn Youngkin sought to capitalize on parents’ anger over education, with his campaign criticizing a statement McAuliffe made during a gubernatorial debate on Sept. 29 that he doesn’t think parents should be telling schools what they should be teaching.

As the voters in Virginia watch results come in, many are wondering if the spat over education is a preview of what will be reflected in national elections years ahead.

By Felix Jason Odawo, 10:55 p.m.

Republican Jack Ciattarelli leads in New Jersey

The votes continue to be counted in New Jersey, and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy seems to be trailing behind Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli. 

Murphy is seeking his second consecutive four-year term and, if he wins, would become the first New Jersey governor to be reelected since 1977. 

Earlier this week, a poll showed Murphy leading by nine points with earlier public opinion polls showing that the governor had double-digit leads among voters. Now, with more than half of the vote cast, Ciattarelli is leading in the polls. 

According to the Associated Press, Ciattarelli is leading by roughly three points with 65 percent of the vote cast. 

By Nika Schoonover, 10:20 p.m.

Youngkin is leading in Virginia, McAuliffe commits to ‘count every vote’ at election night party

Terry McAuliffe, lagging four points behind Republican Glenn Youngkin, took the stage at 10:20 p.m. EST at his election night rally in Tysons Corner, Virginia to thank his supporters and commit to counting every vote as the night continues.

“We’re still gonna count the votes, because every single vote matters,” McAuliffe said. 

Per New York Times reporting, McAuliffe took the stage with 88 percent of the vote counted and 51.7 percent of the vote going for Youngkin, 47.6 percent for McAuliffe, respectively.  

“We are going to continue that fight tonight and for many years going forward,” McAuliffe said.

Establishing himself as a trusted progressive force in Virginia, McAuliffe called back to his tenure as Virginia governor and Ralph Northam’s lieutenant governorship from 2014 to 2018.

“This is a different state. When Ralph and I were elected eight years ago, we made it much more open and welcoming,” he said. 

Many attribute Youngkin’s lead to robust rural turnout and suburban Biden voters flipping to the Republican slate.

By Maureen Dunne, 10:20 p.m.

Polling closed for New Jersey gubernatorial race

Polling locations in New Jersey closed at 8 p.m. EST after a judge denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters to extend voting hours.

The request was filed after the organizations heard reports that voting locations were turning pollers away due to technical issues and delays. 

“Operational & technical issues this morning at polling locations around the state made voters leave without casting a ballot. We are seeking an extension of polling hours so voters have an opportunity to return and vote,” the League of Women Voters wrote on Twitter.

As long as voters were in line at 8 p.m., they were still eligible to cast their ballot. 

By Nika Schoonover, 7:27 p.m.

Update on New York City mayoral race

Eric Adams is expected to become the second-ever Black mayor of New York City as polls close at 9 p.m. EST.

Adams, a former police officer and Brooklyn Borough President, narrowly secured his party’s nomination Sept. 20 after rounds of ranked-choice voting. He beat out his closest opponent by less than one percentage point — a difference of 8,400 votes, per New York Times reporting.

Many credit the salience of crime and public safety with Adams’ primary victory as he was the only candidate with a law enforcement background. 

Adams faces Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa, a first-time candidate and radio personality. Sliwa faces an uphill battle as registered Democrats in New York outnumber Republicans by 7 to 1, according to New York State Board of Election data. 

By Maureen Dunne, 7:25 p.m.

Polls closed in Virginia at 7 p.m. EST

Polls close in Virginia as of 7 p.m. Eastern. 

Results are expected tonight as Virginia’s new voting law allows for pre-processing absentee ballots to speed up the tabulation process. 

As of 6:40 p.m. Central, ABC News reports 44 percent of recorded votes for McAuliffe and 55 percent for Youngkin, with 13 percent of the vote recorded.

By Maureen Dunne, 6:59 p.m.

Virginia’s updated election laws could result in a faster turnaround for election results

As voters continue to cast their ballots in Virginia, spectators expect to see the vast majority of votes counted on Election Day.

Earlier this year, Virginia passed a law that requires in-person and mailed ballots be reported separately. Previously, ballots were reported altogether and election officials say this will improve the process.

“That separation allows for a couple of different things: It means people will know where the votes came from,” Barbara Cabrera, the director of elections for the city of Fairfax and the president of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia, told Politico. “Dividing it up also allows us to get those results faster.”

In addition, mail-in ballots that are postmarked by Election Day will be counted as long as they arrive by Nov. 5. The new law also stipulates that mail-in ballots should enter pre-processing no later than a week before the election. The delay of pre-processing ballots is what caused a longer counting process in states like Pennsylvania during the 2020 election.

These amendments to Virginia’s voting laws are, in part, meant to foster greater transparency in the voting process and ensure greater trust amid concerns of election fraud that have emerged since the 2020 election.

Since Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin participated in the GOP convention earlier this year, he has raised the issue of election integrity. On Oct. 7, during an interview with the Richmond Crusade for Voters, Youngkin advocated for an audit of Virginia’s voting machines in order to ensure that “everybody can trust” the process.

By Nika Schoonover, 6:08 p.m.

Advertising in Virginia seems to play a critical role in the eyes of voters

Former Democratic governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe has heavily relied on former President Donald Trump when it comes to his ad campaigns. Since Trump has shown his support for opposing Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, even going so far as throwing a rally for him Monday night, McAuliffe has hence chosen to tie Youngkin and Trump together. 

In this race, both candidates seek voters stuck in the middle, those who have not strictly identified with either party. Both have also taken completely different approaches in appealing to these voters. 

As evident in other elections happening in the state, many Virginians are adverse to Trump’s politics, making McAuliffe’s approach sensical. He wants to paint Youngkin as someone who will bring about the same antics, policies and legislative strategy as Trump. 

However, McAuliffe’s ads come across as ‘sweaty’ to DePaul University advertising professor Kenneth Krimstein. 

 “[McAuliffe] was exhibiting more of a sense of what I would almost call paranoia,” Krimstein said. “McAuliffe’s stuff has the air of desperation to it and you never want that … His stuff seemed more like a used car dealer.” 

On the opposite side, he thinks Youngkin has kept his cool.

“[Youngkin is] exuding a sense of calm … His ads are definitely more slick,” said Krimstein. 

According to Krimstein, Youngkin’s success has largely been due to his ability to garner support from the Trump supporters of Virginia and non-Trump supporters alike. Since Trump has continued to back Youngkin, even though Youngkin has made a clear separation between the two. 

Earlier this month, during a rally of Virginia’s republican supporters, attendees pledged allegiance to a flag used at the insurrection of the Capitol. 

Youngkin issued a statement saying, “It is weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6. As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong.” 

Despite not condoning the riots, Trump has continued to encourage his supporters to vote for Youngkin, even hosting a rally for him Monday night — though Youngkin did not attend. 

Additionally, Youngkin has since made a continual separation, those who do not support Trump are still giving him a chance. 

Furthermore, while the two seem to both harbor on one specific aspect of the other, Youngkin goes for McAuliffe’s platform — continuing to appeal to parents. 

Youngkin’s ads leading up the election have largely focused on McAuliffe opposing parents’ input on school curriculum, giving him another slice of the state that could swing his direction overall. 

McAuliffe, on the other hand, has still fixated on attaching Trump’s reputation to Youngkin, without focusing on defending his position on school curriculum issues or posing any other objections to Youngkin’s campaign. 

In regards to financing these campaigns, both candidates combined have spent $115 million on advertising — setting a new record of most amount spent on a race in Virginia.

 McAuliffe spent slightly more than his opponent, putting up $30.8 million to Youngkin’s $27.7 million. 

He also made heavy use of a new form of advertising by purchasing Google ads that would lead users to his campaign pages and articles — spending up to $9.1 million on web and online ads altogether. 

Still, McAuliffe spent most of his campaign funds on TV ads, totaling $49.1 million. 

This compared to Youngkin, who spent less than half of that amount on his TV ads but around the same in web and online ads. 

With polls closing and projections running neck and neck, it’s only a matter of time to see how these ads really resonated with the people of Virginia. 

By Haley DeSilva, 6:05 p.m.

The Trump factor

The Virginia gubernatorial election is here and with it comes prominent political figures and celebrities giving their input on the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

Figures such as President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams and music producer and star Pharrell Williams all voiced support for McAuliffe. 

One big name for Youngkin, however, did not go to Virginia. It wasn’t by choice either. Former President Donald Trump was steered away by the Youngkin campaign. “We’re campaigning as Virginians in Virginia for Virginians,” Youngkin said.

A persistent Trump, however, let his support for Youngkin be heard through an exclusive call-in tele-rally, which was closed to the press, last night. He also sent a myriad of messages through emails and texts to MAGA supporters in the state of Virginia.

As Trump’s Twitter ban continues, the former president communicates with his supporters through Save America: Official Trump Alerts. In one of his released statements, he once again endorsed and encouraged support for Youngkin. 

“Glenn is a very successful businessman who knows how to make Virginia’s economy (which is doing poorly!), great—and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement for many months!” wrote Trump.

Screenshot of statement from former President Donald Trump (Save America: Official Trump Alerts)

Youngkin has not been dismissive of the former president’s support, especially considering many of the candidate’s supporters are MAGA voters, however, he has kept Trump at a distance to focus his candidacy on only Virginians while avoiding outside noise.

Jason Martin, a political communication professor at DePaul, believes the Youngkin campaign is just being cautious of the overinflated value and media attention that Trump brings to the table.

“The decision is likely because Youngkin’s campaign has internal polling that indicates Trump could be a divisive element to voters if emphasized too much,” Martin said. “I’m sure all around the country, regionally, there is variation among GOP attitudes toward him that will lead to a variety of electoral strategies in future midterms.” 

It’s important to remember that the state of Virginia went to President Biden over Trump 54.11 percent to 44 percent in 2020, which was the best a Democratic presidential candidate has performed in the state of Virginia since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. 

“Much of the reflection on the 2020 presidential election tends to indicate that many voters wanted to vote against Trump, which is relatively rare for a presidential turnout motivation, but it could be a factor some feel has resonance only a year later,” Martin said. 

McAuliffe dedicated a tremendous amount of attention toward comparing his opponent’s character with Trump but has abruptly backtracked saying “this election is not about Trump” this weekend. 

Soon the nation will find out whether McAuliffe’s heavy comparison of Youngkin and Trump will be helpful or hurtful.

Trump may not have a factor on the results in Virginia himself, but his influence on the GOP may impact the reaction depending on the outcome, especially considering Trump’s claims of voting fraud. A new NBC poll found 50 percent of Republicans did not believe their vote would be counted accurately the next time they cast a ballot, a 41 percent drop from last year. 

The belief by many Trump supporters that the 2020 presidential election was stolen may have a residual impact on trust with midterm election results in Virginia — as well as the rest of the nation moving forward. If you are looking for a Trump factor, this may be it.

By Jason Grapenthin, 5:42 p.m.

Early voting reaches record high in Virginia

Behind the eye-poppingly vast number of early votes already cast lies the hotly contested and most consequential gubernatorial elections in Virginia. As most of the attention goes to the marquee race between Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe, early voting in the state is at a record high — approximately six times more than the number recorded in 2017, according to the Associated Press.

Higher numbers of Democrats vote early compared to Republicans, according to an analysis by Target Early. In the 2020 general election, roughly 48 percent of early ballots cast were by Democrats and 42 percent were cast by Republicans. Of the ballots already cast in Virginia, 53 percent of early ballots were cast by Democrats. 

With the momentum leaning towards Republican Youngkin and away from Democrat McAuliffe, at least according to the majority of the pollsters, over 1.1 million voters have already submitted early ballots, which makes up approximately one-fifth of the state’s 5.9-million-person electorate.

Early voting in person and by mail have both surged to record highs since the 2020 presidential elections; with Virginia residents energized by the high-stakes gubernatorial elections, while at the same time taking precautions about crowded polling places amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The early voting is fueling what seems to be a record-shattering turnout in the dead heat race.

Elections experts argue that voting before Election Day has become a significant convenience to many and that high numbers of ballots cast is likely to be the new normal in most elections. In the neck-and-neck race, if Youngkin wins, it will be the first time in 12 years that the Republican party has clinched the seat.

By Felix Jason Odawo, 12:51 p.m.

Candidate Profiles

Terry McAuliffe (D)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, speaks to supporters at a rally in Richmond, Va. on Oct. 31, 2021 (Steve Helber| AP)

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe is one of two contenders in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race, which may be the most important political contest of the year. This election will be the first statewide test of President Joe Biden’s popularity and the general political mood. McAuliffe is an American businessman and politician who served as the 72nd Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. His 2013 win has been the only exception since 1973 to the general trend in Virginia’s off-year elections, which almost always favor whichever party isn’t occupying the White House. He did not run for reelection in 2018 because Virginia is the only state that doesn’t allow its executive to serve consecutive terms.

McAuliffe was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. After graduating from Catholic University of America in 1979, he worked for President Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign, and became the national finance director at age 22. Following the unsuccessful campaign, McAuliffe attended Georgetown University Law Center, where he obtained his Juris Doctor degree in 1984. 

McAuliffe won the Democratic primary on June 8 and will face Glenn Youngkin in the Nov.2 general election. If he wins, he will become the first Virginia governor to serve two non-consecutive terms since Mills Godwin, who was in office from 1966 to 1970 and then again from 1974 to 1978.  

On his campaign site, McAuliffe promises to create high-paying jobs in high-demand areas like advanced manufacturing, logistics, transportation, trades and construction, make healthcare more affordable, and invest in education. He is also focused on building a stronger and fairer post-Covid economy. 

 As governor, he worked against Republican attacks on women’s health care rights, keeping open every women’s health clinic in Virginia and vetoing all anti-abortion legislation passed by the General Assembly, including a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood in Virginia. 

In 2016, McAuliffe issued an executive order restoring voting rights to 200,000 people who had completed their felony sentences, which was the largest restoration of rights act to date. Virginia has historically been one of the most zealous states in disenfranchising people with felonies through a lifelong severance of voting rights unless the governor reviews their case and restores their rights personally. The law was a Jim Crow era technique that relied on criminalization of Blackness. 

McAuliffe and Democrats have been scrambling for public support in recent weeks, as public polling has shifted in Youngkin’s direction. 

Over the weekend, McAuliffe spoke to an energetic crowd of supporters in Henrico County, praising the record from his first term.  

“I’ve done this job before,” he said. “I was the most pro-business, pro-progressive. I made this state open and welcoming, created a lot of jobs. We do not want to go back.”

McAuliffe has brought a series of high-profile Democrats to Virginia to speak to his credibility, including President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama. 

At a campaign event in Norfolk, Virginia, on Friday, Harris stressed that who is Virginia’s governor matters for the security of voting rights and access to the polls and described the Virginia election as a “bellwether” of what will happen in future elections.

“Tuesday is a critical day that will determine whether we turn back the clock or move it forward,” Harris said. “Virginia will determine what happens in 2022, 2024 and so on.” 

McAuliffe has been involved in politics since he was 23 years old, when he worked on Carter’s campaign. He later served as co-chairman of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign, chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005 and chairman of Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. 

Since leaving office, McAuliffe has continued to fight for progressive policies and campaigned for Democratic candidates across Virginia. 

Republican gubernatorial candidate, Glenn Youngkin, speaks to supporters at a rally in Fredericksburg, Va. on Oct. 30, 2021 (Steve Helber | AP)

Glenn Youngkin (R)

Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is one of two contenders in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race, which may be the most important political contest of the year. A Youngkin victory may serve as a model for Republicans across the country looking to unseat Democrats in next year’s midterm elections. 

Youngkin won the Republican gubernatorial nomination on May 10, 2021, after defeating six other candidates in multiple rounds of ranked-choice voting across the state. 

Youngkin was born in Richmond, Virginia, but moved to Virginia Beach as a teenager. He graduated from Rice University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts in managerial studies and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. He then went on to earn a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1994. 

Prior to entering politics, he spent 25 years at The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, where he worked as CEO until stepping down in September 2020, stating his intention to focus on community and public service efforts. 

Youngkin announced his candidacy in January 2021 and, as a first-time candidate, was able to fund his campaign using his personal wealth. He spent at least $5.5 million of his own money on his primary campaign and loaned his campaign $20 million in total. 

During the primary, Youngkin was endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz, who described him as a close friend and the best person for the “tough job” of governor. 

“He was sick and tired of watching liberal politicians make policies that hurt our economy and hurt our country,” said Cruz in a video message released on May 2, 2021. “What he knew is that a new kind of leader was needed to get things done and to get things back on the right track.”

Prior to winning the Republican nomination, Youngkin dodged and deflected questions about the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency and made “an election integrity task force” a centerpiece of his campaign as he worked to win over Republican voters. After winning, however, he began distancing himself from conspiracy theories. 

“I mean, the reality is, and I have said this before, Joe Biden was legitimately elected our president,” Youngkin said during a May 13 interview on Fox Business. 

Youngkin initially embraced former President Donald Trump’s endorsement during the Republican primary, but has since pulled back as he tries to court moderate voters in a state that Trump lost by 10 percent in 2020. 

Youngkin has specifically sought to distance himself from the “Take Back Virginia Rally,” held on Oct. 13, during which attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that was used at the Jan. 6 capitol insurrection. Youngkin was not present at the event, which was organized by radio personality John Fredericks, and condemned what happened in a statement the next day. 

“While I had no role in last night’s event, I have heard about it from many people in the media today. It is weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6,” Youngkin said. “As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong.”

On his campaign site, Youngkin describes himself as “a new type of governor” who addresses issues head-on and can bring people together around shared values. He promises to make sure Virginia has better-paying jobs, the best schools, the safest communities and a government that works for the people. 

If elected, some of the items on Youngkin’s agenda are cutting taxes and regulations, banning critical race theory and investing in schools, law enforcement and the mental health system. 

Addressing a crowd at Cumberland Bowl Park in Jonesville, Virginia, on Sunday, Youngkin promised to roll back liberal policies and make Virginia more competitive. 

“This is our moment to come together for our kids and our grandkids and our nieces and nephews to say we are going to build back a better Virginia for them,” Youngkin said. 

By Anna Starobinets, 9:56 a.m.