Governor Ralph Northam’s new mask and vaccine guidelines are reinvigorating Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign messaging. On Thursday, Northam announced that state employees need to get vaccinated or be regularly tested for COVID, and said that people in schools need to wear masks.
Youngkin’s Democrat opponent Terry McAuliffe hasn’t spent as heavily as Youngkin on television advertising, and instead has relied on generating earned media coverage to attack Youngkin. Some headlines have been tough for Youngkin’s pro-business campaign, including Virginia’s number-one ranking in CNBC’s top states for business and a Bloomberg deep-dive into Youngkin’s history of mixed success at the Carlyle Group. Meanwhile, McAuliffe has been highlighting the successes of Northam and other Democratic leaders while tying Youngkin to former President Donald Trump.
The return of masking guidelines in schools is a comfortable spot for Youngkin. He and other GOP candidates have been sounding the alarm about issues in schools including Critical Race Theory, transgender policies, and proposed changes to mathematics programs. Those attacks have resonated with many individuals as evinced by high attendance at school board meetings across the state.
But Youngkin launched his campaign in part by advocating for schools to reopen. Now, he is converting a strong attack on school mask policy into a reminder about virtual learning which is widely understood to have been harmful for many students.
“I do believe that this is part of the left liberal agenda, which is to open up avenues for schools not to be open,” Youngkin said on Friday on The John Fredericks Show.
McAuliffe Launches Agriculture and Forestry Plan
McAuliffe keeps touting his “140 pages” of policy in contrast with Youngkin. McAuliffe’s latest is a “Growing Greener Pastures” plan to strengthen the agricultural and forestry economy. The plan includes implementing universal broadband, expanding Virginia’s domestic and international trade opportunities with a focus on craft-beverage specialty grains, workforce education, and more funding.
“Agriculture and forestry are the backbone of Virginia’s thriving economy, but they need the Commonwealth’s support as we continue to rebuild a stronger post-COVID economy and move Virginia forward,” McAuliffe said in an announcement. “As governor, I will make sure Virginia leads the way in agricultural innovation by expanding training partnerships with community colleges and institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth, creating new markets for Virginia-grown agricultural products, and expanding broadband access to every Virginian.”
Youngkin Speaks at Election Integrity Rally at Liberty University
Youngkin was scheduled to speak Saturday at an Election Integrity Rally organized by Virginia’s 5th District GOP and held at Liberty University. GOP attorney general candidate Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) and GOP lieutenant governor nominee Winsome Sears were also announced as featured speakers, although they instead announced that they would attend a campaign event for HD 40 GOP candidate Harold Pyon.
The theme is a return to another early Youngkin campaign message. In February during the battle for the GOP nomination, Youngkin announced an Election Integrity Task Force.
“Youngkin will make election integrity a top priority. All Virginians deserve a voting process in which they have faith, and election results they trust,” his February press release states.
Youngkin is walking the line between calls for election reform while saying President Joe Biden was elected legitimately. On Monday, HuffPost reported Youngkin’s response to a voter who suggested that Trump could be reinstated to the presidency.
“I don’t know the particulars about how that can happen, because what’s happening in the court system is moving slowly and it’s unclear. And we all know the courts move slowly,” Youngkin said.
The Democratic Party of Virginia used that report to tie Youngkin to Trump and said Youngkin was “all in” on “dangerous election conspiracies.”
But Youngkin has fired back against similar Democratic claims by pointing to McAuliffe’s own history of questioning election results.
“While McAuliffe is smearing my plan to strengthen the integrity of our elections by doing common sense things like requiring a photo ID to vote, he’s the only person in this race who has said a presidential election was stolen,” Youngkin said in a July 28 press release.
Other Statewide Race Details
A Politifact report calls a McAuliffe claim about his education investment “Mostly False.”
“Terry McAuliffe stated on July 21, 2021 in a TV ad: ‘Under Terry McAuliffe (there was a) record investment in education,'” Politifact said.
But that claim does not take inflation into account. The real prize for record investment goes to three state budgets in 2006-2009.
Candidates for lieutenant governor Sears and Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) have both had lackluster campaigns so far, although both have appeared with their party’s nominee for governor. On Tuesday, Ayala criticized Sears after Sears was photographed at an Audit Virginia protest outside the Virginia Capitol. Republican operatives have told The Star that the Sears campaign has structural and messaging flaws.
Miyares has been running a strong campaign by attacking Democrats for a criminal-first, victim-last mentality. His opponent Attorney General Mark Herring gave him a win this week by announcing a list of Virginia sheriffs who endorse Herring, only for two of those sheriffs to disavow the Attorney General.
On Tuesday, the Miyares campaign announced that Smyth County Sheriff Chip Shuler and Dickenson County Sheriff Jeremy Fleming were endorsing Miyares, not Herring.
“Over the past eight years, Mark Herring has abandoned law enforcement. As the extreme wings of the party degraded us and called for us to be disbanded and defunded, Mark Herring did nothing – he left us defenseless and unsupported,” Fleming said in a Miyares press release. “This is why despite my political affiliation with the Democrat Party, I am publicly endorsing Jason Miyares for Attorney General – NOT Mark Herring. Jason has proven time and time again that he supports law enforcement and that his number one priority is Virginians – not politics.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Matt Colt Hall contributed to this report. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattColtHall on Twitter. Send tips to [email protected].
Photos “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin (CC BY-SA 2.0) and “Terry McAuliffe” by Terry McAuliffe (CC BY-SA 2.0) and “Virginia Capitol” by Will Weaver (CC BY-SA 2.0).