Here’s the latest news today out of Virginia:
The Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University released a new survey Friday that showed Democratic candidates for Virginia governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general still hold leads for the 2021 election.
The survey revealed that former current Democratic candidate and former Governor Terry McAuliffe leads Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin 49%-45% for the race for governor. McAuliffe led by five points in the last survey released by the Wason Center on August 26.
“The abortion issue has been tricky for Youngkin,” said Wason Center Research Director Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo. “Trying to navigate between moderate voters who oppose further restrictions while simultaneously appealing to the Republican base who would like a strong pro-life stance, Youngkin has said he would not have voted for the Texas law, but he’s been unclear about how far he would go to restrict abortions in Virginia.”
For lieutenant governor, Democratic Del. Hala Ayala leads former Republican Del. Winsome Sears, 48%-44%, with 8% undecided. The August 26 survey showed Ayala leading by 10 points, 52%-42%. Among Sears has gained 10 points (from 40% to 50%) among independent voters, while Ayala’s support has dropped from 49% to 41%.
Current Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring leads Republican candidate Del. Jason Miyares, 49%-43%, with 7% undecided. Herring led 53%-41% in the August 26 survey. Miyares increased his support 11 points over the last month among independents from 38% to 49%, while Herring has lost support among independents, from 49% to 41%.
Click here for the full results.
Here’s some more news on the Virginia races:
Well, well, well:
Republican Virginia lieutenant governor nominee Winsome Sears refused to say whether she was vaccinated during a recent interview with CNN released on Thursday.
"My life is very public. It's just the way it is. But I want to hold certain things close," Sears, a former member of Virginia's House of Delegates, told CNN, adding that once people inquire about vaccination statuses it becomes a "slippery slope."
"What are we going to ask for now, HIV status? What else are we going to ask for?" she asked.
"We have to be very careful. We live in a freedom-loving society, America," she continued. "And if we're not careful, we're going to start asking for other things, because we have already determined that this is everybody's business."
Sears's Democratic opponent in next month's election, state Del. Hala Ayala, told CNN that she hopes Sears "gets the vaccine if she hasn't already."
"We're not going to stand by and allow it to continue," Ayala said. "So we need to get vaccinated. We definitely need to follow CDC guidance. And I don't think this has to do with any politics. This is about public health and safety."
Sears issued a tweet encouraging people to get vaccinated after CNN's story was published.
Here’s a little more info:
“I encourage everyone to get the vaccine but no one should be forced to disclose their vaccination status, especially not to liberal hack reporters at CNN. The media is trying to carry the water for the failing McAuliffe-Ayala ticket and it won’t work.” Sears tweeted Thursday.
She also refused to answer the question during an interview with CNN earlier in the day. She called it a “slippery slope” when asked about her status.
Sears reiterated her refusal to answer again on Twitter. “I won’t disclose my vaccination status and I won’t be bullied by the media,” Sears said. “They want to distract you from Hala Ayala’s support for policies that raise your electricity rates, increase your taxes, and force you to join a union just to get or keep a job. We won’t be distracted.”
Her Democratic opponent Hala Ayala responded in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Real leadership is about leading by example. Real leadership is not being evasive and hiding from Virginians at a time when they need to hear from you most. Make no mistake: This election is a life or death matter. It’s the deciding factor between whether we move forward and build back better from this pandemic, or if we backslide and the lives and rights of Virginians suffer as a result.”
Election day is less than four weeks away and COVID-19 vaccinations remain a key talking point for the Democratic candidates as polling has shown the majority of Americans support their stance on some degree of vaccine requirements. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee has opposed vaccine requirements but straddles the line by strongly encouraging people to get it. He also revealed that he received the shot and recorded a PSA encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine for a paid advertisement.
Friendly reminder on how big of a role COVID has played in this election:
While campaigns in Virginia have focused on a range of issues, including the economy, crime and education, covid has consistently been the dominant issue. The commonwealth, with roughly 13,000 deaths, has been hard hit by the pandemic, but Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has fought the virus with stringent covid rules.
A string of polls have shown that the coronavirus pandemic ranks among the top two issues on the minds of Virginia voters, with a recent Monmouth University poll
showing 32% of Virginians said it was their most important issue, just behind 39% who said the economy.
This popularity has forced Youngkin to toe a difficult line between based Republican beliefs who have rallied in opposition to vaccine and mask mandates and more popular position that favor some vaccine and mask mandates in schools, health care and other public settings. The Republican, while urging some people to get the vaccine, has also told Virginians that if they don't want to take it, they shouldn't have to and urged people to "respect people's ability to express their liberty" and not get vaccinated.
This positioning will be critical for Youngkin. The same Monmouth poll found 62% of Virginians backed face masks and social distancing guidelines, with 59% saying they support statewide vaccine mandates for certain professions, like health care and schools. And the issue is notably important to suburban voters, like those in vote-rich Northern Virginia, many of whom fled from Republicans and Trump in 2016 and 2022.
Even with Youngkin's sometimes careful rhetoric, Democrats see his messaging on the coronavirus as his largest liability -- and got a strong proof point in September when California Gov. Gavin Newsom
defeated a recall attempt against him by running almost exclusively on the strict Covid measures he had implemented.
"Virginians overwhelmingly have shown strong support for Terry's leadership on vaccine requirements," said Christina Freundlich, spokeswoman for the McAuliffe campaign. "We expect Youngkin's dangerous, Trumpian positions to be a driving motivation for Virginians to vote for Terry and Democrats this fall."
McAuliffe has devoted considerable time to attacking Youngkin's views on Covid, not only calling the Republican "anti-vax" at nearly every event but devoting seven television and digital ads to the issue.
Youngkin, who is vaccinated and has said he believes the vaccine is safe, has largely looked to avoid the topic, choosing instead to focus his campaign on a mix of issues that motivate the Republican base, like complaints about what is being taught in schools and crime, and more upbeat messaging about being a political outsider and bringing a businessman's approach to government.
Meanwhile, things are heating up in this race:
Democratic Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Hala Ayala and the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety rolled out a $200,000 ad campaign Tuesday highlighting Ayala's record on the issue ahead of Election Day next month.
The ad, which was first released to The Hill, features Ayala talking about how she lost her father because of gun violence when she was 2 years old. Additionally, Ayala discusses her record expanding background checks as a Virginia state delegate.
The 30-second spot will be broadcast on television, radio and digital platforms in media markets across Virginia.
"This November, the progress Virginia has made to end gun violence is on the line," Ayala said in a statement. "While my opponent would take Virginia backwards and undo all the progress we’ve made to build a safer Commonwealth, I’ll build on our work in the General Assembly and continue to fight for gun safety reforms as Lieutenant Governor.”
Everytown announced last month that it plans to spend $1.8 million to elect Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe and other Democrats running in Virginia this November. The group played a major role in the state's 2019 elections where it spent $2.5 million in the legislative elections. Democrats took control of both legislative chambers in the 2019 races.
And look who’s coming to try and save the top of the GOP ticket:
The Virginia branch of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity endorsed Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin in the state's gubernatorial election on Thursday, launching a six-figure digital campaign.
The Hill was the first outlet to report on the endorsement from the group, which is backed by GOP mega-donor Charles Koch.
"As a businessman and entrepreneur, Youngkin understands the pressure Virginian families feel as budgets tighten, costs increase, and success gets harder to find," said Americans for Prosperity-Virginia state director J.C. Hernandez. "It doesn’t have to be this way. Glenn Youngkin knows the policies it takes to make life more affordable and expand opportunity to all Virginians. We’re ready to work day and night through the Election to help him make that vision a reality.”
The six-figure ad campaign will focus on the rising cost of living in Virginia under Democratic control in Richmond. The group will have a kick-off rally at its Richmond headquarters Monday.
Also, brace yourselves for this:
The Republican State Leadership Committee PAC on Thursday rolled out a new ad tying Democratic candidates running in Virginia House of Delegates races to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe's recent comments on whether parents should tell schools what to teach students.
The spot, which was first released to The Hill, features a clip of McAuliffe from last week's gubernatorial debate saying, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
The ad is the latest effort from Republicans to hit McAuliffe over the comments. Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin released an ad last week criticizing the former governor's comments, while the conservative American Principles Project PAC rolled out an ad on Wednesday highlighting McAuliffe's comments.
Additionally, Youngkin's campaign announced the formation of its family-led mobilization effort called "Parents Matter" this week.
The Virginia GOP certainly is getting very nasty and desperate as we get closer to Election Day:
The slick campaign mailers are designed to command Virginia voters’ attention: One shows a Jewish Democrat, his nose appearing to have been digitally altered to seem larger, looking at stacks of gold coins.
The image on a second mailing is of a Black Democrat rendered as a puppet, bound by ropes and suspended in the air. A third shows the Photoshopped image of another Black Democrat on the cover of a matchbox, his face between two flickering flames.
A vote for that candidate, the mailer warns, “is like playing with fire.”
The mailings all were funded by the Republican Party of Virginia, which is seeking to portray Democrats running for reelection to the House of Delegates as tax-and-spend “radical puppets” controlled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
But Democrats are seizing on the images — as well as a tweet and comment by two other Republican candidates — as evidence of a more nefarious GOP agenda: tapping into bigoted stereotypes to tarnish their opponents and scare off voters.
“It’s despicable,” Manuel Bonder, a Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman, said in an email. He described the mailers as “racist, anti-Semitic garbage” that echo tactics employed by former president Donald Trump and Corey Stewart, the Virginia Republican whose losing 2018 U.S. Senate campaign was rife with divisive rhetoric.
“These people are completely unfit to lead,” Bonder said.
Rich Anderson, chair of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), did not respond to messages seeking comment. Thomas M. Davis III, the former Republican congressman from Virginia, who is advising a candidate who authorized one of the mailers, accused the Democrats of ginning up outrage to excite their voters.
“It’s politics 101,” he said. “I don’t think anything was intended by it. They’re looking for an issue right now because their base is asleep.”
With less than a month until the election, the heated gubernatorial race between former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin is the centerpiece of Virginia’s 2021 campaign cycle.
Youngkin, a former Carlyle executive, has poured $1 million of his own money into Virginia Wins, his political action committee. Among the candidates who have received funds from the PAC are three Republicans — Harold Pyon, Tara Durant and Karen Greenhalgh — whose Democratic opponents were targeted by the recent RPV mailings. A Youngkin campaign spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
But it sure does sound like Youngkin and the Virginia GOP sure are worried about keeping the Trump base motivated:
Republican Glenn Youngkin has not talked much lately about President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud, the insurrection on Jan. 6 or his party’s eroded trust in elections. But when he has, it has not gone smoothly.
The GOP nominee for governor of Virginia argued this week that the state's voting machines must be regularly audited, suggesting that would ensure “everybody can trust” the process. Left unsaid was that the machines already undergo annual audits.
The comment followed a recent interview in which Youngkin did not directly say whether he would have voted to certify Democrat Joe Biden's victory, had he been in Congress. He later followed up to say he would have.
The murky answers and clarification underscore Youngkin's dilemma when it comes to talking about last year's election. False claims and misinformation about the results are so widely believed by Republican voters that disputing the lies can be politically risky. For months, while running for his party's nomination, Youngkin declined to say whether Biden was legitimately elected.
Now, in a general election, vying for votes in a tight race in left-leaning Virginia, Youngkin has tried to resist being branded as a election denier or letting Democrats tie him to Trump's false claims.
The former president hasn't made it easy. His political action committee sent an email late Wednesday highlighting a story about Youngkin's comments, writing: “ICYMI: ‘Youngkin calls for audit of voting machines in Virginia.’"
Trump has been pushing Republicans in battleground states to stage “audits” of the results. He is unbowed by the fact that the most high-profile examination — a partisan review of ballots in Arizona's largest county — turned up no evidence that the election was stolen.
Democrats seized on the emailed remarks as a sign that the two men are aligned.
Want more proof of Virginia Republicans clutching to social issues to try and win? Here you go:
Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee in the Virginia governor's race, spent Saturday night at an event hosted by an anti-LGBTQ political group based in Virginia.
The gala was hosted by the Family Foundation, a Richmond, Virginia-based group with a long history of anti-LGBTQ activism. Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary, was a keynote speaker at the event.
Youngkin's association with the organization comes after the release of Youngkin digital ad taking the side of two women who attended a Fairfax County School Board meeting on Sept. 23 to complain about public school libraries carrying "LGBTQ-themed books" and "promoting books that graphically depict homosexual acts."
"I am here to protest the use of Fairfax taxpayers' money in a campaign to normalize homoerotic material with minors," Adrienne Henzel, one of the women featured in the Youngkin campaign ad, told the school board.
She added that the pro-LGBTQ library books were part of a larger "indoctrination effort."
In March, the Family Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging a Virginia state policy that aims to make schools more trans-inclusive by allowing trans students to use names, pronouns, and facilities that correspond with their gender. A circuit court judge dismissed the lawsuit in July.
The group has also opposed marriage equality and has expressed support for "conversion therapy," the harmful practice that operates under the falsity that LGBTQ people can be forced to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Sept. 29, the organization posted on its website that "school boards across the state have become the epicenter for parents opposed to teachings incorporating the core tenets of 'Critical Race Theory' and LGBTQ+ ideology." It highlighted an exchange between Youngkin and McAuliffe during a gubernatorial debate on Sept. 28 where the moderator questioned McAuliffe on how he believes schools should implement these policies.
The Family Foundation event Youngkin attended listed the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, as one of its sponsoring organizations.
The organization has a long history of opposing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people through its legal work. The Alliance Defending Freedom is also one of a few anti-LGBTQ national groups that has pushed for a slew of anti-trans bills this year, including bans against transgender youth playing on the sports team of their gender.
Again, talk about tightrope walk:
Yet last month, during the second and final debate against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe ahead of the November election, Youngkin said the results of the 2020 campaign were "certifiably fair" and there wasn't "material fraud." The Virginia State Board of Elections' audit report
, published in March, confirmed the results of both the 2020 presidential election in Virginia and the Senate campaign that saw Democrat Mark Warner reelected.
This issue, more than others in the race, highlights the fine line Youngkin must walk in a commonwealth that has moved toward Democrats in recent years. Youngkin, in ads and at events, has cast himself as a political outsider untethered to traditional political operations -- in a bid to win back more moderate voters who fled his party in 2016 and 2020 as a response to Trump. At the same time, Youngkin must keep the Republican base motivated, primarily by speaking to issues like crime, education and, most importantly, the results of the 2020 election.
Trump, who has endorsed Youngkin, has devoted much of his post-presidency so far to trumpeting baseless claims about the election, lauding Republicans who follow his lead and attacking those who do not. On Wednesday, Trump's political organization sent out a press release pushing to an article about Youngkin's call for an audit.
In an interview with CNN's Jeff Zeleny last month, Youngkin said he has been "very clear that there's not extensive fraud in Virginia" but that he, as governor, would "invest in our election process" so that Virginians have "faith in our election process." He also attacked McAuliffe for trying to "politicize everything" and "make a word, election integrity, some bad word."
But the more that Youngkin leans into the election integrity message, the more McAuliffe uses his comments to tie the Republican to Trump, something the Democrat has been doing throughout the 2021 campaign.
"Glenn Youngkin's priorities are clear: He is running for governor to bring Donald Trump's dangerous conspiracy theories to Virginia," McAuliffe said in a statement this week. "At a time when Virginians are worried about good jobs, a quality education and the rising costs of health care, Glenn has called his Trumpian election integrity plan the 'most important issue.' "