Opinion

Could Virginia Be a Bellwether Going Into 2022?

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Posted: May 21, 2021 12:01 AM
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Could Virginia Be a Bellwether Going Into 2022?

Source: Kate Magee Joyce/Youngkin for Governor Campaign via AP

On May 8th, 2021, over 30,000 Virginia Republican voters participated in an “unassembled convention” at various statewide locations to elect the 2021 Republican ticket.

Using weighted, ranked choice voting (RCV)—where the lowest vote getter is eliminated each round until a winner clinches over 50 percent—voters selected nominees for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General: Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Jason Miyares, respectively.

Although Virginia trends blue nationally, could this year’s statewide election be a bellwether going into 2022? It’s possible—given historical precedent. 

A Repeat of 2009 Red Wave in 2021? 

As the Virginian Pilot recently noted, “While Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009, the party has some hope of ending their drought this year; since 1973, only once has the party controlling the White House gone on to win the governor’s race in Virginia the next year.”

 It’s undeniable our state is lurching uncomfortably to the left. 

Aside from Northern Virginia, Richmond suburbs and parts of Hampton Roads, however, the Commonwealth is pretty red. 

But could discontent with teachers unions, parole board corruption, one-party rule in Richmond, and potential backlash to the Biden administration benefit Virginia Republicans? Definitely.

Some political observers believe the 2021 ticket, barring no controversies, could prevail over the prospective Democrat ticket. From The Washington Post

"The Democrats start with the advantage, given the state’s leftward trend and continued discontent over the legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency. But Youngkin, a wealthy political newcomer, may benefit from a political climate similar to the one that helped win the governorship for Republican Bob McDonnell in 2009, the last time the GOP triumphed statewide in Virginia.

"McDonnell capitalized on a backlash against a newly elected Democratic president — Barack Obama — and the intense desire of Republicans to have a winner."

What key metrics must Republicans hit to win in November? The publication added

"A knowledgeable Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy, said the keys to a Youngkin victory were threefold:

"- Rev up the GOP base to get 79 percent of a presidential-year turnout in bright-red areas such as the Shenandoah Valley and Southwest Virginia.

"- Win at least a narrow victory in the Norfolk media market.

"- Win at least 42 percent in Northern Virginia."

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman got blowback from his Democrat followers for suggesting Republicans “actually have a good chance to win the VA governor’s race this year.” 

He added, “Moreover, despite VA's obvious long-term Dem trend, its gubernatorial races haven't moved in a straight line.”

“If Virginia was going to elect a Republican, this is the type of year that they would do it,” noted J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “We see the Democrats as favored, but it’s not going to be a slam dunk. They’ll have to work for it.”

Meet the Republican Nominees 

Glenn Youngkin

A self-described “outsider” and political newcomer, Glenn Youngkin bested fellow businessman Pete Snyder in Round 6 of voting to secure the nomination for Governor. 

The former Carlyle Group co-CEO retired last summer citing his desire to “focus my full-time efforts on community and public service efforts that I believe can make a meaningful impact.” 

Boasting a net worth hovering $254 million, Youngkin was able to self-fund and go from virtual unknown in January to nominee nearly four months later. His campaign credits insurgent grassroots efforts and having no prior political record as factors contributing to his win. 

So far, his focus has largely centered on issues like election integrity, job creation, preserving right-to-work laws, and school reopenings. 

Without a doubt, his candidacy certainly has presumptive Democrat gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, hungry for a second term, squirming.

Winsome Sears

Winsome Sears, a one-term House of Delegates member who represented Hampton Roads, easily clinched the nomination for Lieutenant Governor. 

Born in Jamaica, Sears was the first Black Republican woman ever elected to the General Assembly and first Republican elected to represent a majority-Black district since 1865. She runs Shenandoah Appliance Plumbing & Electric, LLC based in Winchester, VA.

A USMC veteran, she campaigned on school choice, right-to-life, election integrity, gun rights, and reopening Virginia’s economy.

Sears is expected to electrify the base and simultaneously tap into new voters.

Jason Miyares

Current House of Delegates member and lawyer Jason Miyares clinched the Attorney General spot after three rounds of ranked-choice voting.

Serving the Virginia Beach area since 2016, Miyares’ top issues on the campaign trail were restoring law and order, gun rights, exposing corruption in the Virginia parole board, and countering Richmond’s leftward shift.

In 2015, Miyares became the first Cuban-American ever elected to serve in the General Assembly. 

According to his campaign website, his mother Miriam Maria Miyares fled communist Cuba in 1965 and “legally immigrated to the United States and instilled in her three sons a passionate love of the freedom and democracy of America.”

Conclusion

The Virginia Mercury observed, “The GOP stands a real chance if it can make this year’s elections a referendum on the leftward policy lurch both in Richmond and in Washington.”

Over the next five months, the Republican Party of Virginia’s ticket can and must make this case to voters.

As goes Virginia, so goes America? If Virginia flips back to the Republican column on November 2nd, Democrats will be in serious trouble come 2022.

All eyes on the Old Dominion State...