by Will Weissert and Sarah Rankin
RICHMOND, VA (AP) — Democratic Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey remained in the running for re-election on Wednesday, while a Republican political newcomer made a surprise reversal in the Virginia governor’s race, warning Democrats that power over They have a hold. Washington could be in danger.
In Virginia, Glenn Youngkin became the first Republican to win statewide office in a dozen years, in a race to unite with enough suburban voters to win over the culture war’s feud over schools and the most ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Murphy’s reelection effort was dismayed by a surprisingly strong performance from GOP challenger Jack Ciatarelli, who campaigned on issues including taxes and opposition to pandemic masks and vaccination mandates. The race was too early to call as the votes were counted.
The results in both states were particularly alarming for Democrats because of where they took place. President Joe Biden led Virginia by 10 points last year. He took New Jersey to 15 overs. Given the scale of those victories, no state was viewed as particularly competitive when this year’s campaign began.
But major polls before Biden’s presidency suggested growing discontent among voters. He also underlined that, with Trump stepping down, Democrats cannot focus their messages on their opposition. The results ultimately point to a potentially painful year for Democrats as they try to maintain a low majority in Congress.
And he drew a renewed focus on the inability of congressional Democrats to pass Biden’s largely domestic policy legislation, though it’s unclear whether the defeat will be enough to jolt his party into action.
Republicans celebrated their strong performance, with Youngkin telling an enthusiastic crowd of supporters that “this is the spirit of Virginia coming together like never before.” The GOP’s strength extended to down-ballot competitions, including the lieutenant governor’s race, which was won by Winsome Sears, becoming the first woman to win the office of Virginia statewide.
McAuliffe formally acknowledged in a statement Wednesday morning that congratulated Youngkin.
He said, ‘Losing is never easy. “We put ourselves out there and left it all on the field.”
A political debutante, Youngkin was able to take advantage of the apparent apathy among core Democratic voters, who were weary from years of elections that were seen as a must-win, as well as growing dismay with Biden and the economy. . He successfully portrayed McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, as part of an elite class of politicians. He stumbled upon a late stage by McAuliffe, who suggested during a debate performance that parents should have a minimal role in shaping the school curriculum.
Perhaps most importantly, Youngkin won in an act that stumped many Republicans before him: attracting Trump’s base while also appealing to suburban voters who had backed away from the former president’s divisive behavior. .
During the campaign, Youngkin called his support for “electoral integrity,” a nod to Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, while also focusing on education and business-friendly policies. He never campaigned personally with Trump, successfully challenging McAuliffe’s attempt to cast him as a clone of the former president.
This approach could provide a model for Republicans to compete in future races that include large numbers of Democratic or independent voters.
Elsewhere in the country on Tuesday, mayoral contests helped shape the leadership of some of the nation’s biggest cities. Democratic former police captain Eric Adams won New York, and Boston voters chose the city’s first female and Asian American mayor, City Councilor Michelle Wu. Cincinnati is getting its first Asian American mayor, Aftab Pureval.
Minneapolis voters rejected a ballot initiative that called for an overhaul of policing in their city, where George Floyd was killed by a white police officer on Memorial Day 2020, in the wake of racial injustice across generations. There was the biggest wave of protest against. The initiative would have replaced the police force with the Department of Public Security, which was accused of a “comprehensive public health” approach to policing.
But no other contest this off-year election season has attracted national attention — and money — as the governor’s race in Virginia, a state with a broad swath of college-educated suburban voters, controlled by Congress. Are increasingly impressive and white houses.
A former co-CEO at Carlyle Group, with a 6′6″ build that once made him a reserve forward on Rice University’s basketball team, Youngkin poured a large portion of his personal fortune into a campaign that raised $59. spent more than a million. In favor of the wool vest, Youngkin sought to cut out the image of a typical suburban father.
Youngkin ran confidently on a conservative platform. He opposed a major clean energy mandate passed by the state two years ago and objected to abortion in most circumstances.
He also opposed the mask and vaccine mandate, promised to expand Virginia’s limited charter schools, and ban Critical Race Theory, an educational framework that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that white people work to maintain dominance. In recent months, it has become a catch-all political discussion for any teaching in schools about race and American history.
McAuliffe tried to energize the Democratic base by highlighting abortion, denouncing a new Texas law that largely banned the procedure and warning that Youngkin would try to enforce similar restrictions.
Youngkin didn’t discuss abortion much publicly, and a liberal activist caught her on tape saying the issue couldn’t help her during the campaign. He said an election victory would allow the party to “start a crime” on the issue.
While McAuliffe drew on the star power of several National Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Youngkin campaigned largely on her own, focusing on issues she said were important to Virginians. were important.
Youngkin also proved perhaps most successful in defying McAuliffe’s attempts to link him to Trump and the former president’s divisive political style.
During a debate in late September, McAuliffe said the poll showed the race toughened that he did not think “parents should tell schools what they should teach.” This prompted Youngkin to run hundreds of TV ads on the statement and focus on his own promises to make the school curriculum less “un-American” and to change policies on transgender students and school bathrooms.
The race took a particularly bitter turn last week, when Youngkin ran an ad featuring a mother and GOP activist who eight years ago banned Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Baywatch” from classes. had tried.
McAuliffe accused Youngkin of unheard of “racist dog whistles,” but Youngkin said Virginia’s parents knew exactly what was at stake—and so did families across the country. It was a sign of how harnessing parental activism could work for the GOP in the next year and future election cycles.
“America is watching Virginia,” Youngkin said as part of his closing argument.
Associated Press writers Ben Finlay in Norfolk, Virginia, Hank Kurz in Richmond, Alexandra Jaffe in McLean and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.