Republicans have their first official nominee for a major race following President Trump’s departure from the White House. Earlier this week, Glenn Youngkin, the first-time political candidate with a background in private equity, edged out Pete Snyder for the Republican nomination in the Virginia Governor’s race. Youngkin is looking to be the first Republican to win statewide in Virginia since 2009. Following years of Republican dominance in the state, Democrats took control of both chambers of the Virginia statehouse for the first time in more than twenty years in 2019. In addition, nine of Virginia’s thirteen congressional representatives – two Senators and seven House Members – are now Democrats. Nonetheless, Republicans are optimistic that a stagnating economic recovery in the state, an increasingly radical Democratic Party, and a strong candidate in Mr. Youngkin provides an avenue to victory this November.
As AMAC has previously reported regarding the Virginia race, off-year elections often prove to be useful indicators for how a political party will fare nationwide in midterm and presidential election years. With the general election campaign now in full swing in Virginia, Republicans are eager to highlight how the Democratic Party is hopelessly out of step with most Americans. Terry McAuliffe, the odds-on favorite Democratic nominee, has lurched leftward during his primary campaign, mirroring the radical shift of Democrats nationally. McAuliffe, who was previously governor from 2014 to 2018, is also the standard-bearer of the Democratic political establishment in the state, while Youngkin has embraced his identity as a political outsider dedicated to reviving Virginia’s status as a national leader in everything from education to industry.
During his acceptance speech this past week, Youngkin promised to end pandemic restrictions, open schools, and churches, defend law and order, and lower taxes, among other pro-growth policies. The remarks articulated a powerful vision for Virginia’s future, with Youngkin asserting that his mission as governor would be to “make Virginia the best place to secure a job, the best place to start a business, the best place to go to schools that are open five days a week, and the best place to raise a family, the best place to make a home, the best place to dream a dream and then go get it.”
During the speech, Youngkin also pointed to Virginia’s proud history as the home of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, promising to “reclaim Virginia’s historic place for leading our nation to excellence.” While McAuliffe and Virginia Democrats have chosen to depict Virginia – and indeed the rest of the United States – as deeply flawed and in need of radical change, Youngkin painted a very different and more positive picture of Virginia, one drawing on the commonwealth’s heritage as a cradle of democratic ideals and individual liberty. Youngkin evinced a deep respect for the leaders who came before him, saying, “I will never forget that the job [to which] you have nominated me…was once held by Patrick Henry, by Thomas Jefferson, [by] James Monroe… This Commonwealth is where the world first heard the words ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ And it is the state that gave us the most revolutionary idea of all time – that ‘all men are created equal.’”
Democrats have been quick to label Youngkin a “pro-Trump extremist” following his convention win. Apparently, Democrats now classify wanting secure elections, low taxes, and individual liberty as “extreme” views. Yet the overall lack of substance in early attacks on Youngkin clarifies that Virginia Democrats know pro-growth Republican policies may resonate even more than usual with voters in a year defined by government-induced economic hardship as a result of overly restrictive coronavirus lockdowns and rising inflation thanks to unprecedented government spending.
Critics have also tried to say that Youngkin’s personal success in the business world makes him out of touch with ordinary voters. But Youngkin’s story should be seen as a testament to the power of the American Dream – a Dream enabled by conservative policies and now denied to so many Virginians by Democrat governance.
As Youngkin stirringly described in his remarks, he grew up the child of working-class parents in Richmond and Virginia Beach. As a teenager, he bused tables at a local diner before working his way up to cook. After earning a basketball scholarship that enabled him to attend Rice University, Youngkin earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and began his career in an entry-level job at The Carlyle Group, spending the next 25 years working his way to become CEO. Youngkin led Carlyle to become one of the leading investment firms in the world, all while still finding time to serve on the board of various nonprofits, coach youth basketball, and remain active in his church community. In response to government-induced layoffs during the pandemic, Youngkin also founded Virginia Ready, a 501(c)(3) organization that uses short-term, targeted training programs funded by companies in desperate need of skilled labor to fill job openings in sectors like technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. Look for Youngkin to highlight this initiative frequently throughout his campaign as an example of championing private-sector investment to drive economic opportunity.
Youngkin’s vision for the future of Virginia is filled with reverence for a proud history and hope for a prosperous future. As Democrats continue to preach the politics of division, the Youngkin campaign is betting that Virginians are ready for a new direction where people can find a job, raise a family, and don’t have to apologize for their country, their state, or their values. The success of that message may tell us much about the political winds ahead.
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