McAuliffe captured a plurality of the vote Tuesday, beating out a slate of four other candidates who argued a new face was needed to represent the party: Former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, state Senator Jennifer McClellan, Delegate Lee Carter and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.
The projected win comes after a primary contest where he frequently led in polling since he declared his candidacy in December 2020. The latest poll by Roanoke College, released days before election day, showed McAuliffe with just under majority support at 49%.
Historically, the party in charge of the White House loses Virginia’s governor’s race in the following year. McAuliffe beat that streak in 2013 during his first term as governor.
McAuliffe was backed by current Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose 2008 presidential run McAuliffe co-chaired.
McAuliffe has frequently targeted Youngkin, a former CEO of The Carlyle Group who has put at least $12 million of his own money into his race, on the issues of abortion and gun rights. He and Virginia Democrats have also frequently pointed to Youngkin’s support from former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him shortly after he won the nomination.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, congratulated McAuliffe on his win and said “implemented bold initiatives to create good-paying jobs and expand economic opportunity across the Commonwealth. Now, as Virginia rebuilds following the pandemic, Terry will work as governor to create an economy that works for all Virginians and uplift those who have been hit the hardest.”
She called Youngkin “an extreme, far-right, Trump-backed Republican set on ripping up the progress that Virginia has made in the last eight years.”
“One of the key things that candidates always do in elections is to run against the person you wish you were running against,” University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth said before election day. “The big difference that you see in Virginia in 2021 is the fact that Donald Trump is no longer president and he’s no longer on the ballot. And that may create an environment where angry Virginia Democrats don’t turn out as much.”
Youngkin released two ads right after McAuliffe’s win that’ll run on TV and digital starting Wednesday.
“For too long we’ve been told there’s only way to do things in Richmond, the same politicians taking us in the wrong direction,” one ad says.
The other ad uses Carroll Foy’s criticisms of McAuliffe on the debate stage and in interviews. Carroll Foy has said she’d support the nominee and would work “tooth and nail to help the nominee beat Mr. Youngkin,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
“”The stench of corruption follows McAuliffe wherever he goes, and voters across the Commonwealth are looking for fresh leadership after nearly a decade of failures from the McAuliffe-Northam regime,” said Republican Governors Association Executive Director Dave Rexrode in a statement after McAuliffe’s win.
Dr. Quentin Kidd, the dean of Arts and Sciences at Christopher Newport University, said Youngkin is going to try and run toward a more moderate Republican lane, after appealing to the GOP base during their convention season on issues like Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
“He is going to run, as far as I can tell, as a very friendly, acceptable, kind of business oriented candidate to suburban voters. He is going to run kind of like Terry McAuliffe is going to run,” Kidd told CBS News before election day.