Glenn Youngkin is not Donald Trump. And Terry McAuliffe is not Joe Biden. Yet, from the attack ads each of their campaigns has sponsored, one might think that their race to be the next governor of Virginia is a reprise of the 2020 presidential election. It’s not.
We urge voters to ignore the nasty caricatures and the negative ads that have flooded television, radio and social media networks. There are substantive policy differences between the candidates that should inform voter choice — even though each candidate brings experience and strengths to the race.
Youngkin, a Republican, is a personable, engaging, very successful former private-equity executive. He knows business and he knows finance. But he has no elected experience. As such, he has no governing track record on which voters can evaluate him. Instead, things he says now and has said before are the only means to measure his views. And for that, Youngkin has some challenges.
McAuliffe, on the other hand, is an experienced political executive, having served a successful term as Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018, who was barred from seeking immediate reelection by Virginia’s one-term law. He is, in the main, a centrist, focused on moderate-to-progressive health, safety and education positions. And he is a proven, reliable friend of the Jewish community and supporter of Israel.
We are troubled by positions Youngkin has taken on several important issues. For example, he opposes COVID vaccine mandates for hospital workers, teachers and state employees, arguing that vaccination is a personal choice, and has expressed a reluctance to enforce CDC health guidelines. Before his nomination he made clear that he favors a rollback of gun-control legislation, including a “red flag law” to take weapons away from dangerous individuals by a judge’s order. And he is on record, also before his nomination, as opposing “choice” in the abortion debate. Yet now, on these divisive issues, Youngkin refuses to commit — all in an apparent effort to retain the support of more moderate voters who support abortion rights and reasonable gun control.
The McAuliffe-Youngkin contest is important for Virginians, for obvious reasons. It is also being treated as a bellwether for the 2022 elections, in which Democrats are expected to be hit hard. A Democratic win in Virginia could strengthen party chances going forward. A Republican win in blue-leaning Virginia — which Biden carried by 10 points — would set off alarm bells in Democratic campaigns all over the country.
When we endorsed McAuliffe in 2013, during his first run for governor, we described him as “mainstream” and hoped he would use his persuasive skills to work with “a legislature that is likely to continue to be in Republican hands.” With Virginia’s legislature now led by Democrats, we again endorse Terry McAuliffe, in the hope that his solid pro-science, pro-Israel, pro-sensible gun control, pro-women’s right to choose positions will continue to be policy in the commonwealth.