RICHMOND, Va. -- A fifth-grader in Virginia who has lived in the Commonwealth since birth has never seen a Republican take the oath of office for the top job in state government. Scaffolding is going up on the south portico of the Virginia Capitol building after Glenn Youngkin became the first GOP candidate to win a statewide election since 2009.
At his election night party, early Wednesday morning after the race was called, the former private equity CEO made note of a walk he took with his wife a year and a half ago when Youngkin told his wife Suzanne he wanted to run for governor.
“Two people on a walk, and a defining moment that is now millions of Virginians walking together,” Youngkin said.
During the speech, Youngkin hit on several of the topics he laid out in his “day one game plan.” They included policy proposals like cutting taxes on veteran retirement plans and personal income, promoting choice and parental involvement in public education, and supporting public safety.
“We’re going to protect qualified immunity, invest in our behavioral health system, and finally we will replace the entire parole board on day one,” Youngkin said.
The issues like these that seemed to move many Virginia voters towards Youngkin and the GOP ticket are seen by progressive activists as ways of enriching the already wealthy and potentially rolling back social justice reforms and protections.
“We caution Governor-elect Youngkin against focusing his administration on making the wealthiest Virginians even wealthier through unneeded tax cuts. We oppose any efforts to roll back voting rights or women’s rights,” the advocacy grope Virginia Organizing said in a statement Wednesday.
Voters also appeared to deliver Republicans a slim majority in the House of Delegates. Even with Democrats holding a narrow edge in the Virginia Senate, the election likely makes it easier for Youngkin to enact his vision.
“It’s a vision where Virginian's power, power that has historically resided in the marble halls in Richmond, is spread out, spread out to the kitchen tables that are held together with the bond of spirit and liberty and freedom,” Youngkin said.
Two-thirds of the GOP ticket is making history with their wins. Lt. Governor-elect Winsome Sears will become the first Black woman to serve in a role in Virginia. Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares will be the first Latino to hold office.
In the statewide ticket, former Governor Jim Gilmore said the party found candidates who were able to speak to the concerns of suburban voters and that he thinks Democrats lost touch with those voters while in power.
“This is really a great moment now for the re-emergence of the Republican Party of Virginia,” Gilmore said. “We’re now the mainstream party: the party of education, the party of responsible spending, responsible tax cuts. I think the people of Virginia are responding to that.”
Youngkin and the GOP won and expanded margins in places Virginia Beach and Chesterfield County while also closing the vote gaps in Northern Virginia. Democrats had performed very well in those regions in the proceeding elections.
“To be quite honest with you, as I traveled the state, I met a number of independent swing voters and soft Democrats that were for Glenn and Winsome and Jason,” said RPV Chairman Rich Anderson.
“I think it says the suburbs will vote for you if you speak to their concerns. I think what we’ve seen right now is the education piece has become predominant,” Gilmore said.
Virginia Democrats are reeling after their election defeat in a state that had been trending in the favor for some time. In a statement Wednesday, former Governor McAuliffe conceded the race but promised the party would continue their efforts.
“While last night we came up short, I am proud that we spent this campaign fighting for the values we so deeply believe in. We must protect Virginia's great public schools and invest in our students. We must protect affordable health care coverage, raise the minimum wage faster, and expand paid leave so working families have a fighting shot. We must protect voting rights, protect a woman's right to choose, and, above all else, we must protect our democracy. While there will be setbacks along the way, I am confident that the long-term path of Virginia is toward inclusion, openness and tolerance for all,” the statement said in part.
Although the results are unofficial at this point, Inauguration Day will take place on January 15, 2022.