Richmond, Va. (NWN) — Voting in the nation’s most-watched off-year election was kicking off Tuesday night as Virginia voters chose between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin in a campaign that partly supported President Joe Biden. A referendum was made on the first year of. The Office.
Barely 12 months after Biden took the state by 10 points, the governor’s race was seen as a comfortable victory for Democrats. Instead, McAuliffe, a prominent figure in Democratic politics and the former governor of Virginia, was locked in a dead heat with former business executive Youngkin As he attempted to reclaim the position.
The injury campaign focused on issues including Youngkin’s relationship with former President Donald Trump, the future of abortion rights And the battle of the culture war on the schools. But voters saw the economy as the top issue, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to NWN VoteCast, a poll of statewide voters.
Some 34% of Virginia voters ranked the economy as their No. 1 priority, while 17% chose COVID-19 and 14% chose education. Those issues outnumbered health care, climate change, racism and abortion in the survey.
The final results, however, can ultimately be interpreted as Biden’s preliminary decision. The closeness of the race indicated how much his political fortunes had changed in a short period of time. The White House has been shaken in recent months by the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, a sometimes sluggish economic recovery amid the pandemic and a legislative agenda at risk of stalling on Capitol Hill.
A defeat in a state that has been Democrats’ sway for more than a decade will deepen the party’s sense of anxiety Heading to the mid-term elections next year, when Congress’s control is at stake. But Biden expressed optimism in the evening, admitting that “the off-year is always unpredictable.”
“I think we’re going to win in Virginia,” Biden said at a news conference in Scotland, where he was attending an international climate summit. “I do not believe – and I have seen no evidence that – whether I am doing well or poorly, whether I have passed my agenda or not, is going to have any real effect on victory or defeat.”
Tuesday’s vote also included the governor’s race in New Jersey, mayoral offices across the country and a major policing question in Minneapolis. Still, both Virginia candidates said the implications of the first major election since Biden moved to the White House would be felt beyond their state.
In one of his final shows of the campaign, McAuliffe insisted that “the stakes are huge.” Youngkin said the election would “send a statement that will be heard across the country.”
Voting took place without incident throughout Virginia. McAuliffe and Youngkin were out of sight before planning election night parties in most of the important northern Virginia suburbs, counting each campaign.
VoteCast showed that nearly half of Virginians had a favorable opinion of Youngkin—suggesting that the Republican gubernatorial candidate had successfully distanced himself from the former president, compared to a 55% unfavorable rating for Trump. Youngkin was endorsed by Trump but did not appear with him in person, although the party is still dominated by the former president.
In contrast, McAuliffe campaigned alongside his party’s top national stars, including Biden, whose final trip to Virginia was a week before Election Day. The votecast found Biden underwater, with 48% of Virginia voters approving of his work performance compared to 52% — especially in a state he won so easily.
In Norfolk, along the state’s Atlantic coast, 29-year-old Cassandra Ogren said she voted for McAuliffe because of her support for abortion rights and her concern about the recently enforced restrictions in Texas, where a new law Mostly prohibits the process. But she was also inspired by Youngkin’s relationship with Trump.
“Anyone who is supported by President Trump is not someone I want to represent myself,” Ogren said.
School issues are important to many voters, meanwhile, there could be good news for Youngkin. His pledge to ensure that parents have a greater say in what their children are taught was a centerpiece of his campaign – possibly foreshadowing similar arguments. GOP candidates will use it across the country next year.
Youngkin has denounced the school’s efforts to teach about institutional racism in society. McAuliffe said during a debate that “I don’t think parents should tell schools what they should teach.”
Bennett White, 24, a Youngkin voter in Norfolk, said he did not want “our next generation of leaders to see their peers in the lens of the race.”
“I just want to make sure my mom is safe in the classroom,” said White, whose mom is a teacher, “and that her ideals and everyone’s ideals are protected, and we don’t turn into brainwashing academies. are.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was trying to win re-election against former Republican State Assemblyman Jack Ciatarrelli. If successful, Murphy would be the first Democrat to be re-elected as state governor in 44 years.
a poll question Minneapolis could reshape the police system in the city where last year’s killing of George Floyd sparked widespread protests for racial justice across the country.
But no other race attracted the attention of the Virginia governor’s campaign. This is partly because past contests in many states have sometimes reflected voters’ frustration with the new party in power.
In 2009, during President Barack Obama’s first year in office, Republican Bob McDonnell’s victory in Virginia previewed a disastrous midterm cycle for Democrats, who lost more than 60 House seats the following year.
But McAuliffe won the governorship in 2013, a year after Obama was re-elected, the only time the state has elected a governor from the party of the incumbent president since 1976. He is looking to repeat that feat on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, Hank Kurz in Richmond, Virginia, and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.