Former Virginia government Terry McAuliffe is one step closer to winning his old post after defeating four other Democrats in the primary on Tuesday.
The Associated Press called the contest for him shortly after the polls closed in Virginia.
McAuliffe’s decisive victory in a diverse field results in a very popular election competition with Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
McAuliffe’s main competition included Sen. Jennifer McClellan and former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, both aspiring to become the first black woman elected governor in the United States. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and the state Del. Lee Carter was also in the race.
Virginia’s out-of-year elections are often seen as a wake-up call to the national mood. In nine of the state’s last 10 government races, the White House party has lost the competition to Virginia.
McAuliffe countered this trend when he narrowly won his first term in 2013.
The former businessman and chairman of the Democratic National Committee has spent much of his term fighting a Republican-led legislature on burning issues like abortion and the right to arms. It also made economic development a priority, aggressively courting Amazon in a successful push to bring their second headquarters in Northern Virginia (current governor, Ralph Northam, eventually signed the deal).
McAuliffe mulled a run for the White House after his term ended in 2018, but ruled it out after current President Biden, whom he calls a friend, entered the primary.
If he wins in November, McAuliffe will only be Virginia’s second two-term governor since the end of the civil war. Virginia’s constitution bans consecutive races and McAuliffe was approved by Northam, who is expected to retire from political life after his term ends.
McAuliffe and Youngkin, a former CEO of the Carlyle Group, have a few things in common: Both men are wealthy, well-connected residents of the Washington, DC suburbs. McAuliffe is a prolific fundraiser that counts US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Bill Clinton as allies, while Youngkin has already invested more than $ 12 million in his campaign.
With McAuliffe leading easily in Democratic primary polls and fundraising, the couple started throwing mud right after Youngkin won a GOP naming convention in May.
Youngkin chose McAuliffe as a “career politician” who had failed to solve the problems of the Virginians. And soon after McAuliffe’s victory, the Youngkin campaign launched two ads attacking McAuliffe, including one with a clip of Carroll Foy, a major opponent endorsed by some progressive groups, saying that McAuliffe “disappointed the people of Virginia.” (Carroll Foy said on Monday that she would support the eventual Democratic nomination even if she lost.)
McAuliffe has repeatedly criticized Youngkin’s embrace of Trump and argued that he would bring radical views on issues like abortion and LGBTQ protections that would endanger people’s well-being and the state economy.
“We can’t bring bio, life sciences, renewable energy jobs into a discriminatory state,” McAuliffe said during a campaign stop in Richmond on Monday.
Republicans haven’t won statewide elections in Virginia since 2009, when Bob McDonnell was elected governor.
Tucker Martin, McDonnell’s former communications director, said the GOP faces an “absolutely formidable” opponent in McAuliffe, who could leverage his experience and connections in his campaign.
However, Martin, who also advised Ed Gillespie in his 2017 unsuccessful run against Northam, predicted that Trump wouldn’t play as big a role this year as he did in that contest, “when he essentially blocked the sun.” This could create a more favorable environment for Republicans, Martin said, given Trump’s unpopularity in a state it lost 10% in 2020. Democrats, on the other hand, must create a sense of urgency without Trump. looms over the Potomac.
“When you win so much, it’s hard to keep up the energy and intensity,” said Martin.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said Trump’s shadow still hangs over the race given the continued news coverage it generates.
“Yes, Youngkin projects a good image,” Saturday said. “But it is easily dented, maybe even shattered, because it has a big ‘R’ next to its name and is definitely related to Donald Trump.”