Annandale, Virginia — Last November, Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia, the first Republican elected statewide since Bob McDonnell was elected governor in 2009. Virginians also elected fellow Republicans Winsome Sears as lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares as attorney general. With Virginia a purple state, blue some would say, the race initially favored former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. The race ultimately tightened, though, as momentum picked up for Republicans. In many ways, that momentum and the race came down to the issue of education, which Youngkin, along with Sears and Miyares, truly capitalized on.
Sure enough, it paid off, as the exit polls confirmed. Since taking office, Youngkin has expanded his horizons to help other Virginia candidates, as he did when supporting fellow Republicans for the House of Delegates. Republicans took back the majority in that body as well, and Youngkin assured Townhall in an exclusive interview that he plans to take back the state Senate next year.
When it comes to the upcoming November elections, Youngkin has boosted many Republicans in races against Democratic incumbents. He’s also traveled to help fellow Republican gubernatorial candidates, which he explained to the press is his way to give back after he received help from the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA).
During a Wednesday afternoon “Back to School” rally put on by the Spirit of Virginia, Youngkin combined his recognition of the importance of education with seeking to help boost other Republicans in Virginia. Regardless of which candidates Youngkin is supporting, and where, it can’t be denied that the 2021 statewide races served as a bellwether, just as the role of education in past and future races can’t be ignored.
“Absolutely I do,” the governor told Townhall when asked if the education issue will play a role in these upcoming midterm elections. “What started last year in Virginia… was a recognition that our children in fact have been not asked to perform to high standards, parents have been disintermediated from their lives by bureaucrats and by politicians, and that in fact we weren’t serving our children well.”
Youngkin went on to reminded “what started here in Virginia became a movement, and it spread around the country.” He offered he thinks that “Republican candidates across the nation, and particularly here in Virginia, will see that education will be the top issue, and standing up for parents’ abilities in their children’s lives as the critical plank in that issue, and making sure that our children have the opportunity to learn and to be educated in a way that prepares them for life.”
Education has played a role at the national level in that the Biden administration and the National School Board Association (NSBA) branded parents at school board meetings as “domestic terrorists.” Youngkin reminded attendees of the during his remarks, drawing vicious boos from the crowd.
It does appear congressional Republicans are listening, as they came up with a Parents Bill of Rights last November, not long after Youngkin won.
Asked if other such issues that affected his race will similarly play a role in these upcoming November races, Youngkin confidently responded “without a doubt,” highlighting how last year’s races had “a keen focus on kitchen table concerns by hardworking Virginians,” including “runaway inflation and cost of living, education, safety in our communities, and oh, by the way, a government that stops telling you what to do all the time.”
Youngkin reminded how President Joe Biden had won Virginia in 2020 by 10 points, where he is now underwater. A Roanoke College poll released earlier this week shows Biden with just a 39 percent approval rating in the commonwealth. That same poll shows Youngkin with a 55 percent approval rating, up from 50 percent in February.
The governor credited his approval rating to “tremendous progress” during his first seven months in office, including a “landmark budget” as well as “oh, by the way, bills that empower parents and reestablish their primary role in their kids’ education.” He believes he is accomplishing “what Virginians elected me to do” and that “we have been delivering in every aspect of our Day 1 game plan,” which he believes “is what Americans are going to be looking for.”
The governor confidently believes that the “red wave” in Virginia last year, “is spreading across the nation,”and will because of those same issues. When it comes to “the road to the majority in the House of Representatives,” Youngkin pointed out he’s often said that “comes through Virginia,” predicting candidates in those races will perform “extremely well.”
Youngkin took the stage flocked by students after congressional candidates he supported spoke, as well as Lieutenant Governor Sears who discussed findings from the governor about school standards, and Attorney General Miyares who spoke of the legal wins the administration has had on the education issue.
Both Miyares and Youngkin harkened back to rallies last fall, including in Northern Virginia, that addressed education. It was at those events, the attorney general explained, the crossover appeal these candidates had became apparent. Even the Associated Press, which scoffed at Youngkin’s messaging and the idea that he could win, found a voter who typically supports Democrats, but chose Youngkin in part due to education.
As he told the press moments before and upon taking the stage, Youngkin emphasized that the message received on the campaign trail was “parents matter.”
Youngkin also addressed the wins the administration has had on the education issue. This included executive orders signed within hours of him taking office, particularly on empowering parents to decide if their children would wear masks to school, and banning the teaching of divisive topics such as Critical Race Theory. The power of parents to decide whether to mask their children was reaffirmed by bipartisan legislation signed into law in February.
Education still remains a concern, though. Even with Youngkin in office having issued executive orders, signed laws, and working to raise standards, so as to “reestablish excellence in education” and “empower parents,” to “raise the ceiling and the floor,” where there has been great progress, Northern Virginia once again has become “ground zero.” The governor warned teachers unions and school districts are interfering with parents’ rights, such as to attempt to reinstate mask mandates.
Of a particularly grave concern, though, as Madeline recently covered, is that teachers in Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest in the commonwealth, have been trained to keep parents out of gender transitions their children are undergoing. Such has been an issue not merely in Fairfax, but around the country.
At Wednesday’s rally, signs were clearly on display for Karina Lipsman who is challenging Rep. Don Beyer in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, as well as Hung Cao, who is challenging Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, and James Myles, who is challenging Rep. Gerry Connolly in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District.
Youngkin made headlines in recent days on other issues as well, primarily over his statement calling out Democrats who passed legislation ban the sale of new gas vehicles by 2035, as California is doing. As Youngkin put it to Townhall on Wednesday, “the big challenge in Virginia is that in the previous administration, Democrat leaders that were elected by Virginians, outsourced their decision-making responsibility to California, of all places.”
As a sign of hope though in how Virginia has learned from its mistakes in electing only Democrats to control the governorship and both state legislatures, Youngkin again referenced the Republican wins from last year. He was adamant “we need to make our own laws about how we’re going to allow consumers to make their own decisions,” which includes buying an electric vehicle if they choose to, “which is up to the marketplace and not for bureaucrats to mandate.”
Asked if this will make for a bigger push to flip the state Senate next year, still under Democratic control, Youngkin expressed confidence with an “oh, you bet,” though he still plans on a bill in the upcoming legislative session to overturn “this tie to California on this issue.” If Democrats continue to standby that progressive stance and “outsource their responsibilities to California,” Youngkin “can’t wait to see voters opine on that in November 2023.”