(The Center Square) – With 94.5% of precincts reporting, Republican Glenn Youngkin leads Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for Virginia governor, which remains too close to call because of the locations still yet to report.
Youngkin holds a 51% to 48% advantage. The race has tightened as votes in Democratic strongholds in the D.C. suburbs and a number of early ballots continue to come in, but the margin for McAuliffe to catch Youngkin is narrowing. President Joe Biden won the state by 10 percentage points over former President Donald Trump last year, a potentially ominous trend heading into next year’s midterm elections.
Addressing supporters shortly before 10 p.m. local time (EST), McAuliffe would not concede.
“We still got a lot of votes to count,” he said. “We’re going to count all of the votes because every Virginian has a right to have their vote counted.”
Most public opinion polls had the race to succeed incumbent Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam within a percentage point or two. Election officials expected 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 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, Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli held a shocking 50.3% to 49.0% lead over incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, with 75% of precincts reporting. Ciattarelli campaigned on streamlining the state’s government and reducing residents’ tax burden, who pay the highest property taxes in the country.
In Minneapolis, voters overwhelmingly rejected an effort to replace the city’s police department with a Department of Public Safety, whose duties would be determined by the mayor and city council, which called for defunding the police after the death of George Floyd at the hands of city police officers. With all but one precinct reporting, 56% of voters rejected the proposal. The ballot initiative, if it passed, also would have removed the minimum funding requirement for police (0.0017 per resident) from the Minneapolis Charter.
In Austin, voters seemed likely to reject 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. Early results showed the measure falling, 66.5% to 33.5%.