RICHMOND, Va. -- Both Republican and Democratic gubernatorial nominees met with their supporters on Monday, the eve of Election Day in Virginia.
Inside a hanger at the Chesterfield County Airport, GOP nominee gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin told a crowd of several hundred supporters that the Governor’s race marks a “defining moment” for Virginia.
Youngkin’s campaign has been riding the momentum of recent public polling that shows his race against former Governor Terry McAuliffe as a virtual tie. In Youngkin, the Virginia GOP sees their best chance in years to end a losing streak of more than a decade in statewide elections.
“A defining moment to redirect the trajectory of this great Commonwealth. To redirect it where we know it should be, not where it has been. A moment where we get to come together and do something spectacular. A moment where we in fact get to define a new path forward, a new path forward that isn't dependent on 43 years of political favors,” Youngkin said during his remarks.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, Youngkin focused his messaging on parents and public education, arguing Democrats in power in Richmond have lowered academic standards and that seizing on comments made by McAuliffe that parents should not have a say in public school curriculum. McAuliffe has run ads saying Youngkin is taking his words out of context.
Youngkin also cast the race as an indictment of one-party control in Richmond since Democrats have controlled the statehouse for two years.
“This is a moment for Virginians to push back on this left, liberal, progressive agenda and take our Commonwealth back,” Youngkin said.
His remarks focused on several key talking points throughout the campaign, including banning teaching critical race theory in schools. The decades-old academic concept is” a practice of interrogating race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship,” according to the American Bar Association. McAuliffe has argued that it’s not being taught in public schools.
Youngkin also focused on the economy, saying he plans to suspend the gas and grocery tax in Virginia, give small businesses a one-year tax holiday and cut state regulations, though he did not offer specifics.
“Let me be clear, governors do not create jobs, businesses and people do, not governors,” Youngkin said.
On the pandemic, Democrats have criticized Youngkin’s’ stance that he believes in the COVID-19 vaccines but does not support mandates. They argue the rhetoric is dangerous with the virus still circulating in Virginia and the country.
Youngkin drew a different contrast in front of his supports Monday, addressing McAuliffe’s support of vaccine requirements.
“He wants to make your life difficult by forcing your employer to fire you if you don’t get the vaccine and not collect unemployment,” Youngkin said.
Although he is out of office, former President Trump has remained a key figure in the race. Trump has repeatedly endorsed Youngkin, releasing two statements on Monday in support of Youngkin and saying they “believe in many of the same policies.”
McAuliffe has worked to closely tie Youngkin to Trump, who lost Virginia twice and was viewed as mostly unpopular with voters here. Youngkin did not address the endorsement Monday.
Gaydonna Vadergriff, a Republican from Henrico, said the comparison with Trump leaves out a focus on issues like education.
“This is his stage and his platform we are his people,” Vandergriff said. “I’m a former PTA president too. Parents in Virginia have always stood up for their children. And it’s always been welcomed until now.”
During the rally, Youngkin said he’s worried about the direction of Virginia and thinks enough voters agree to overcome recent election trends favoring Democrats.
“I’m worried about the future of our children, I’m worried about the future of Virginia's economy, I’m worried about getting out taxes down, I’m worried about our communities being safe,” Youngkin said. “We have 36 hours to close this thing out, 36 hours to get Virginia moving in the right direction, 36 hours to reject Terry McAuliffe, 36 hours until a new direction in Virginia!”
Youngkin will spend election night watching returns in Northern Virginia.
The Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general made one final campaign stop in Richmond Monday ahead of Election Day.
"Folks, here we are. We're at the end zone. Are you ready to take that ball over the line?" Terry McAuliffe asked the crowd of over 200 at a brewery.
"We started this campaign 328 days ago, folks, and I look around here and I just want to say all of your thank you for the great work that you've done. It feels great."
McAuliffe claimed an advantage from the high number of early votes cast in the election, over 1.14 million according to the Virginia Public Access Project as of Sunday.
"We could hit three million. I think we will have the largest presidential turnout ever," said McAuliffe.
During the rally, those who spoke, including lieutenant governor candidate Hala Ayala, stressed that what is at stake is the progress made by Democrats in the eight years since McAuliffe served his first term as Governor and during the last two years of control of the General Assembly.
"You made the impossible possible. You helped us make possible delivery Medicaid to 550,000-plus Virginians. You made possible marijuana justice. You made possible abolishing the death penalty. You made possible raising teacher pay. You made possible working families get the fair pay they deserve," added Ayala.
McAuliffe said that if he gets re-elected to the governor's mansion, Virginia would increase teacher pay, access to broadband, and universal preschool.
"We got to keep it going. We cannot go back on all the great progress we made on individual liberties, protecting women's rights, all the other issues. They're all on the playing field," added McAuliffe.
Speakers also went after McAuliffe's gubernatorial opponent Republican Glenn Youngkin and his connections to former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Youngkin.
"I am running against, I like to say Donald Trump in khakis or a sweater vest," said McAuliffe. "Today, Donald Trump issued two statements attacking me and endorsing Glenn Youngkin. Today. What does that tell you? Little MAGA people a little not as excited as you thought."
Among the supporters at the rally was Isata Turay from Richmond, who said she voted early for McAuliffe because "he can do the job and his first time around was impressive". She added, though, that she was concerned by polls that have seen the two candidates move neck and neck.
"I think his message of education and also the social part of his campaign was very appealing," Turay said of the factors that would likely lead Democrats to victory.
After the Richmond rally, the Democratic ticket went to Northern Virginia for one final rally. The trio will hold a watch party in that area Tuesday night once the polls close.
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