(The Center Square) – Votes are being counted in the tight race for Virginia governor, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin square off in an election being watched closely across the country.
With about 46% of precincts reporting, Youngkin holds a 57% to 42% advantage, with Liberation Party candidate showing less than 1%. Fairfax County in the suburbs of Washington D.C., a Democratic stronghold, has had delays in reporting counts.
Most public opinion polls had the race to succeed incumbent Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam within a percentage point or two. Election officials expect a long night of counting after a day in which some maskless voters said they were turned away from the polls.
The Virginia Department of Elections sent an email to local polling officials to remind them of state law.
“We have gotten several reports of voters either being turned away or being made to wait until the polling place is clear before being allowed to vote if they refuse to wear a mask,” Virginia Elections Commissioner Chris Piper wrote to officials. “You may not turn voters away because they are not wearing masks. While masks are encouraged, every eligible voter is entitled to cast a ballot at their polling place.”
Education has been the key issue in the Virginia governor’s race, with jobs and COVID-19 policies also at the front of voters’ minds, according to polling.
During a debate last month, McAuliffe said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” in reference to outspoken parents showing up at school board meetings to protest the teaching of critical race theory and other controversial subjects. The Youngkin campaign jumped on the comment, highlighting it in advertisements and frequently referencing the quote during his campaign rallies. Youngkin has said he would stand up for parents and support their role in their children’s education.
The Virginia governor’s race is being watched closely by political observers across the country as the first potential bellwether of Americans’ attitudes about the direction of the country under President Joe Biden, who is finishing his first year in office.
Biden’s approval rating has plummeted as increased inflation grips the country, supply chain issues are leading to empty store shelves ahead of the holidays, illegal immigration continues to surge and federal COVID-19 policies are dividing Americans.
With control of the U.S. House and Senate on the line during next year’s midterms, pundits are pointing to this race as a potential early indicator of what could come in 2022.
Elsewhere around the country:
In New Jersey, incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, faces a challenge from former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who campaigned on streamlining the state’s government and reducing residents’ tax burden. Polls closed at 8 p.m. local time (EST).
In Minneapolis, voters are deciding if they want to approve a plan to replace the police department with a new public safety department focused on a “comprehensive public safety approach” that would include police officers “if necessary to fulfill the department’s responsibilities.” The ballot initiative also would remove the minimum funding requirement for police (0.0017 per resident) from the Minneapolis Charter. Question 2 is the culmination of efforts more than a year after the City Council pledged to reform the police department after the death of George Floyd.
In Austin, voters will decide on Proposition A, which would require a minimum number of police officers based on the city’s population.
The ballot initiative would require there to be at least two police officers for every 1,000 residents of the city. FBI Uniform Crime Reports showed that in 2019, Austin, had 1,802 total police officers, or 1.90 officers per 1,000 residents.
The measure also would require an additional 40 hours of officer training each year on topics such as critical thinking, defensive tactics, and active shooter situations.
Save Austin Now, an advocacy group that gathered more than 30,000 signatures to get Proposition A on the ballot, said efforts by the city council to defund the police have put residents’ lives in danger.
In Boston, progressive City Councilor Michelle Wu holds a significant lead in the polls over moderate City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Regardless who wins, the victor will make history as the first woman of color to be elected mayor in Boston.
In New York, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio is not running. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat, is the prohibitive favorite over Republican Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels neighborhood watch group.
In Atlanta, Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is not seeking re-election, and 14 candidates are on the ballot vying to claim the job. The three leading candidates, former Mayor Kasim Reed, City Council President Felicia Moore and Council member Andre Dickens, have campaigned on dealing with the city’s skyrocketing crime rates.
In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan is not seeking re-election after a turbulent years of COVID-19 restrictions and violent unrest after the death of Lloyd Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. City Council President M. Lorena González, a staunch supporter of Defund the Police calls, and former Council president Bruce Harrell, who has a more moderate stance on policing.