The Republican candidate is a rich businessman and political novice who questions the integrity of the electoral system.
The Democratic frontrunner is an old-school profession politician with deep roots within the occasion institution.
Just months after Joe Biden gained the presidency on a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, a rematch by proxy is shaping up in Virginia, which is choosing a brand new governor in 2021.
Republicans have nominated Glenn Youngkin, a little-known former private-equity govt, who was instantly endorsed by former President Trump.
The main candidate in Democrats’ June 8 main is Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor in search of a comeback by following the Biden playbook — emphasizing his expertise, railing in opposition to Trumpism.
One of two states holding gubernatorial elections this 12 months, Virginia supplies the primary huge check of power between the events since Biden was elected, and it may set the tone for the 2022 midterm election.
For Republicans, the face-off will probably be a check of whether or not their candidates can achieve holding the Trump base whereas courting swing voters. Youngkin is framing the election as a possible referendum on Biden’s progressive insurance policies, not Trump’s legacy.
“Trump’s not on the ticket,” Youngkin mentioned in an interview after addressing a rally right here in Clifton, a northern Virginia suburb of Washington. “The administration in Washington has moved so far left and moved so quickly, that when a state like Virginia stands up and says no, and an outsider like me beats Terry McAuliffe, it’s going to be a big statement.”
But Democrats are shifting shortly to outline the political novice as an acolyte of the previous president — a method designed to spark 2020-style enthusiasm and turnout with out Trump really being on the poll.
“He is an extreme right-winger in the same mold as Donald Trump,” McAuliffe mentioned in an interview. “I am not going to let Glenn Youngkin do to Virginia what Donald Trump has done to the country.”
Virginia’s gubernatorial contests — at all times held a 12 months after a presidential election — are sometimes seen as a referendum on the occasion holding the White House, and that’s often dangerous information for that occasion. In most Virginia gubernatorial elections, the victor has come from the occasion not within the White House.
But the state in recent times has tilted more and more Democratic — Biden gained it by greater than 10 proportion factors, about twice Hillary Clinton’s margin in 2016. Republicans haven’t gained a statewide election since 2009.
Republicans improved their possibilities of ending that shedding streak in 2021, analysts say, by nominating Youngkin. Establishment occasion leaders had been particularly relieved that the nomination was not gained by Amanda Chase, a state senator thought-about probably the most provocative of the alternate options. Known as “Trump in heels,” Chase was kicked off of her legislative committees after she participated within the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.
Youngkin, 54, is a former co-chief govt of the Carlyle Group with a reported web price of greater than $200 million — deep pockets that might assist make him the primary GOP candidate in a decade that may compete with Democrats financially.
The political newcomer has a sparse file on coverage and political points. He averted defining himself additional through the GOP nomination combat, an advisor mentioned, by shunning many of the questionnaires put to candidates by special-interest teams.
That may make it simpler for him to execute the tough political balancing act that can confront all Republicans in aggressive midterm races to come back.
“This is going to be a test about whether or not a candidate can appeal to a Trump base in a nominating battle then pivot and win suburban voters,” mentioned Bob Holsworth, an unbiased political analyst in Virginia. “They nominated someone who looks like he might have the capacity to do that.”
During the GOP nominating contest, Youngkin put out a plan to make sure “election integrity” — a central challenge for Trump supporters who consider the previous president’s false claims that Biden didn’t legitimately win the 2020 election.
The morning after Youngkin gained the nomination, Trump issued a press release praising him: “He knows how to make Virginia’s economy rip-roaring, and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Youngkin embraced the conservative agenda of gun rights, opposition to abortion, low taxes and criticism of flashpoint social points like educating vital race principle in faculties. But he has shortly tried to place extra distance between himself and Trump’s signature grievance in regards to the 2020 election.
“I have said before that Joe Biden was legitimately elected our president,” Youngkin mentioned in a Fox Business interview. “I mean, he took the oath. He’s sleeping in the White House.”
Chase dropped her risk to run as an unbiased and as a substitute endorsed Youngkin. But she made it clear that she would preserve his toes to the fireplace on supporting Trump’s agenda. Asked how necessary Trump and his agenda can be to Republicans’ success, she answered in a textual content message, “Considering 1.9 million Virginians voted for him this past November, I would say it’s very important.”
In the Democratic main to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam, McAuliffe’s high rivals are two Black ladies — state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Jennifer Carroll Foy, a former member of the state’s House of Delegates. Also working are progressive state Delegate Lee Carter and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — one other Black candidate who might need been a number one contender had he not been confronted with sexual assault allegations.
McAuliffe, 64, is dominating in polling and fundraising over that numerous subject of youthful candidates — a path harking back to Biden’s victory within the 2020 main contest over a big subject of rivals that included candidates of coloration and many ladies.
Even earlier than he was a candidate, McAuliffe was virtually anointed by Biden, a detailed good friend for many years. During a Virginia presidential marketing campaign occasion in March 2020, then-candidate Biden jogged onto the stage, thanked McAuliffe for his introduction and hailed him because the “once and future governor of Virginia.”
Like Biden, McAuliffe is making his political and governing expertise central to his marketing campaign. A prolific fundraiser with occasion connections that span many years, he’s very near Bill and Hillary Clinton, served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and made an unsuccessful bid to be Virginia governor in 2009. He got here again and gained in 2013 — a uncommon exception to the pattern that the occasion out of the White House usually wins in Virginia.
He left workplace in 2017 due to Virginia’s ban in opposition to governors serving consecutive phrases. Now he’s primarily in search of a second time period, touting his file of overseeing financial development, restoring voting rights for a lot of felons, and vetoing conservative social insurance policies accepted by the state Legislature, then managed by Republicans.
McAuliffe jokes about complaints that his bid for an additional time period now could be a throwback to an earlier political period. “Over time, I’m like a good wine. I get more seasoned,” he mentioned at a latest marketing campaign occasion about financial coverage.
His candidacy has generated some pressure amongst progressives who had hoped that in 2021, with Carroll Foy and McClellan within the race, Virginia may elect the primary Black feminine governor within the nation.
His rivals warn that nominating a secure, acquainted candidate like McAuliffe won’t generate the keenness and turnout Democrats must beat Youngkin.
“If we have two wealthy patriarchal guys at the top of the ticket trying to out-scream each other, outmatch each other, who’s that going to inspire to come to the polls?” Carroll Foy mentioned in an interview.
“We need a candidate who is going to motivate our base and expand our base,” mentioned McClellan.
But McAuliffe has marshalled help from a phalanx of Black mayors and legislators from throughout the state. Like Biden, he advantages from the pragmatic streak amongst many older Black voters, who desire a candidate who’s skilled and the most secure wager to win.
“I personally want somebody who knows the job, who has done the job, who can hit the ground running,” mentioned Virginia State Senate President Louise Lucas, who’s Black. She travelled from Richmond to McAuliffe’s house in northern Virginia early final 12 months to induce him to run.
McAuliffe may decide up swing voters like Jack Runfola, a veteran in Sterling, Va., who has been an unbiased split-ticket voter up to now. He hasn’t determined whether or not to vote for McAuliffe within the main, however is delay by Trump’s endorsement of Youngkin. “That’s the kiss of death for me and my wife,” mentioned Runfola.
But Youngkin’s supporters are optimistic that he can carve out his personal identification and switch voters’ focus from Trump to Biden.
In the Virginia suburbs, “people voted for Biden here because they didn’t want Trump in their living rooms for another four years,” mentioned former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). “Biden has misread his mandate by governing left. People are looking for something new.”