This Tuesday night was a big win for Republicans in Virginia. Republican nominee for governor Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The topic of education grabbed the spotlight in their race. McAuliffe was asked during a debate about parents objecting to critical race theory being taught in schools. "I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions," McAuliffe said. "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
Youngkin seized on this quote and released a video of additional McAuliffe quotes that, together, present a view of little parental control. Youngkin's point is that parents should have a say in their children's education. Voters apparently agreed. Youngkin is a solid candidate. Grew up in a working family, earned a scholarship to Rice University and then went on to Harvard to earn his MBA. He then made his way into business and had a very successful career. He and his wife, Suzanne, have been married for over a quarter of a century and have four children.
Youngkin ran not only on the concept of parents being involved in their children's education, but also on his plans for economic growth and safety. He ran on issues the voters cared about. Additionally, he did not attempt to recreate himself into a political consultant's candidate, but ran a race marked by authenticity, solid on who he is and why he was running.
McAuliffe was hoping the issue of abortion would drive Democratic voters to him, but he was wrong. According to a Politico article Tuesday titled, "5 things we learned from Republicans' big night," by Steven Shepard and David Siders, this was not an issue that was important to those who voted on Tuesday, at least not important enough for McAuliffe to gain the votes he needed.
"Fewer than one in 10 voters said abortion was the most important issue to them, according to exit polls," wrote Shepard and Siders. What was important were the issues that Youngkin focused on during his campaign, economy, safety and education.
Additionally, turnout in Virginia was extraordinarily high. "In this election, at least 3.3 million votes have already been counted, with more left to tally," wrote Shepard and Siders. "That shattered records for off-year elections -- and Democratic claims that high turnout always helps their candidates." But that's not all.
The lieutenant governor's race in Virginia also went to a Republican. Winsome Sears beat Democratic nominee Hala S. Ayala. Sears focused on jobs, education and safety and talked about her experience immigrating to the United States from Jamaica as a child. Her father had $1.75 in his pocket when he came to this country. Sears served in the Marine Corps and the Virginia legislature; she ran a write-in campaign for the Republican Senate nomination in 2018 and ran a Salvation Army homeless shelter. She understands that she represents the American Dream. She is also a woman of faith, involved deeply in her community to help others pull themselves up. What she believes in and has lived -- a personal hand up, not a government handout -- is the remedy.
Sears was articulate about the Democratic strategy regarding elections. "I think what has happened with the progressives is that they have pitted all of us against each other so that they can swoop in and be our political savior," Sears told Fox News on Wednesday morning. She's right, and it did not work in Virginia this time.
She also understands that, while this might win races, it does not build communities or nations. "And we are saying that, you know, we have to be one Virginia," Sears continued. "I have won my race as lieutenant governor and I'm not going to be representing Republicans solely. No. I'm representing Republicans, Libertarians, Green Party, Reform Party, Democrats, everybody. We've got to learn to live together to get along so that we can have a peace."
Tuesday was a good night for Republicans in Virginia, and people are already beginning to speculate about what this means to the midterms next year. While it is certainly positive, the devil, as always, is in the details. Both candidates on the Republican side are highly qualified, articulate, and experienced. Both ran on what they believed and who they are. Both are people of faith with firm family foundations, both have made their way to success through hard work. Both were authentic and positive about the message they were taking to the voters or Virginia. They were for something positive, and not just against the negative. They offered solutions, and asked Virginia voters to work with them for a better future -- and it worked.