Chris Lange, FISM News
A tightening, off-year gubernatorial race in Virginia is being closely monitored in and outside of the beltway, with experts saying its outcome will serve as a bellwether for upcoming midterm elections.
As President Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted, Democrats are feeling the heat to maintain their party’s razor-thin majorities in both the House and Senate.
First Lady Jill Biden plans to visit Henrico, Va. this Friday to stump for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, who announced yesterday that former president Barack Obama will join him on the campaign trail later this month. President Biden had previously campaigned for McAuliffe in July.
A recent poll by Christopher Newport University shows McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014-2018, leading his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, by only four points, which falls within the survey’s 4.2% margin of error. The two candidates are vying to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
According to the CNU poll breakdown, while both candidates appear to have solid backing within party lines, a majority of Virginia’s Independent voters (54%) support Youngkin, compared to 35% who support McAuliffe, with 9% being “undecided.”
The race will also serve as a litmus test in the national debate over what extent parents should be involved in their children’s education, an issue that quickly took front and center during a fiery debate between the two candidates last month. During the heated exchange, Youngkin raised the issue of schools refusing to engage with parents, citing a recent example in Fairfax County, Va. where parents demanded to know why they were not made aware that their children were being exposed to books containing sexually explicit material during a school board meeting.
“You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education,” said Youngkin, adding that McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have informed parents of the books in the school’s library.
McAuliffe responded, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions,” adding, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
The comment sparked immediate outrage among conservatives and parents’ rights groups. Youngkin’s campaign seized upon the opportunity by quickly releasing a campaign ad that included a clip of the exchange.
Virginia has also been at the center of contentious debate over parents’ rights in regard to Critical Race Theory curriculum, pornographic literature, and mask and vaccine mandates in schools. The Loudoun County, Va. school board recently approved a gender-identity policy which allows students to use restrooms, locker rooms, and compete in sports according to their preferred, rather than biological, sexual identity.
These issues gained recent national attention as earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo to the FBI directing the agency to “protect” schools from the alleged “imminent threat” posed by parents. The memo seemed to target those voicing opinions at school board meetings in protest of far-left curriculum that they deem harmful to their children.
Other key issues in the race are tax-funded abortions, which Youngkin opposes, and McAuliffe’s plans to repeal Virginia’s right-to-work laws.