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Virginia governor's race pits political newcomer against former office holder

Terry McAuliffe projected as winner of Democratic nomination
Mcauliffe & Youngkin
Posted at 8:08 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 17:16:57-04

The Associated Press has projected Terry McAuliffe as the winner of the Democratic nomination for governor Virginia's primary election.

He was one of five candidates vying for the nomination and bested Jennifer Carroll Foy, Jennifer McClellan, Lee Carter and incumbent Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

McAuliffe served as the 72nd Governor of Virginia from 2014-2018.

He held a campaign event at Smartmouth Brewing Company in Norfolk Monday night, where he talked exclusively with News 3 about why the Hampton Roads vote is so important to this election.

In November, he will face off against newcomer Glenn Youngkin, who won the Republican Party's nominating convention in May - his first time running for political office.

"I think there are individuals who are looking at the Republican candidate because he comes out of business and not the political fray," said political analyst Dr. Eric Claville from Norfolk State University.

McAuliffe, on the other hand, has spent decades in politics. He touts his accomplishments as restoring the voting rights to thousands of felons and creating jobs in Virginia following the Great Recession. McAuliffe was known to battle with Republicans and had the most vetoes of any governor in Virginia history. He also battled against the operator of the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels over drivers facing steep late fees.

"We have worked really hard in Portsmouth on fixing transportation and lifting people up," McAuliffe said during a recent campaign stop in Portsmouth.

Youngkin is the former head of an investment group. He's tried to promote that experience in the business world as why he's the best fit.

"We are absolutely going to get this economy moving again - a rip roaring economy, more jobs than people can take," he said during a recent visit to Virginia Beach. "We're going to put our schools back together and stand up for community safety. This is what's most important in Virginia. We're hearing it from people all across Virginia."

Both McAuliffe and Youngkin acknowledge the next governor will take over following a pandemic. McAuliffe has laid out 15 specific plans as for what he hopes to accomplish as governor.

Youngkin does not have a specific policies page listed on his campaign website, and some political observers say he's shied away from addressing certain hot-button issues.

Both candidates have come out on different sides of criminal justice reforms, including qualified immunity for police. McAuliffe supports ending it, which would make it easier for people to sue police officers. Youngkin says the policy should remain in place.

President Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points in 2020, but the Virginia governor's race is seen as an early chance for voters to respond to what they're seeing in Washington. Historically, the race has tended to flip to the other party depending on who's in the White House, although in 2013 McAuliffe won with President Barack Obama in the White House.

"We do have several months, but I think it's a high hurdle to cross for Republican candidates, really the entire ticket to overcome what Virginia has become and is becoming," said Claville. "It is truly a blue state."

Republicans haven't won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009, but now they're hoping to reverse that trend in November.

In interviews with News 3 Wednesday, both Youngkin and McAuliffe drew distinctions between each other. "I have a 30 year business career. I am all about delivering results for Virginians. I'm willing to work for Virginians. I'm not trying to get a job back that I had before and didn't do a good job when he had it," said Youngkin.

McAuliffe said Virginians are in a better place now than they were before he became governor. "If you look at my plans, you know that I've got a huge, broad coalition. I also have a huge broad span of policy," he said. "I'm running against someone that has no plans."

Youngkin defended himself, saying he's addressed his policies in speeches. "I've talked about getting our economy open by carving back regulations, by absolutely lowering taxes for Virginia families and making sure that we train workers to do the jobs that need to be done," he said.

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