Republican Glenn Youngkin won an election Tuesday to become the next governor of the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia in one of several closely watched races nationally ahead of next year’s midterm congressional elections.
The political newcomer defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, capturing 51% of the vote to McAuliffe’s 48% with most ballots counted.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, both candidates highlighted its importance on the national political scene as one of only two state governor races contested this year and with Democrats and Republicans looking toward the 2022 election that will see all 435 seats in the House of Representatives on the ballot.
Democrats hold a slight majority in both the House and Senate, and losing control of either or both next year would make it more difficult for Democratic President Joe Biden to pursue his legislative agenda.
The Virginia result points to a recent shift in support, with McAuliffe’s loss coming after he held a lead in opinion polls in the months leading up to the vote. But that polling advantage had been narrowing, just as Biden saw his approval rates slide.
Biden won Virginia by a 10-point margin in last year’s election.
According to an Associated Press survey of Virginia voters, about one-third said the economy was the top issue on their minds, followed by 17% who said it was the coronavirus pandemic, and 14% who selected education.
In a statement Tuesday morning, McAuliffe congratulated Youngkin on his victory and urged voters to preserve longstanding institutions and liberties in the state.
“We must protect Virginia’s great schools and invest in our students. We must protect voting rights, protect a woman’s right to choose, and above all else, we must protect our democracy,” McAuliffe said.
“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,” McAuliffe added.
Votes were still being counted early Wednesday in a tight battle in the state of New Jersey where Governor Phil Murphy is seeking to become the first Democratic governor in the state to win reelection in 44 years. He faces a challenge from former state legislator, Republican Jack Ciattarelli.
Voters also made their choices Tuesday in the races to fill three vacant seats in the House.
Democrat Shontel Brown defeated Republican Laverne Gore to win a seat representing Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.
Republican Mike Carey won the seat representing Ohio’s 15th Congressional District by defeating Democrat Allison Russo.
The Democratic primary election in the race to fill a vacant seat for Florida’s 20th Congressional District was too close to call early Wednesday. Republican Jason Mariner won his party’s nomination, but whichever Democrat emerges is expected to win the January special election in the heavily Democratic district.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.