On November 2nd, states across the US held their regular elections - New Jersey and Virginia held their gubernatorial elections and state legislative elections, while other states reserved this day for any special elections, as a result of deaths or vacancies. The main candidates for governor in Virginia were Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, and Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe. In New Jersey, the candidates for governor were Republican candidate, Jack Ciattarelli, and Democratic candidate, Phillip Murphy, Democratic. In the end, Youngkin won for Virginia and Murphy won for New Jersey.
Historically, a new president’s party suffers losses from the first midterm elections after the new administration takes power. President Biden appears to be no exception from this trend, as the Democratic party begins to lose some of its grip, illustrated through Virginia’s gubernatorial election. Especially over the past few elections, Virginia has been known to flip between a Democratic and Republican governor, but has a somewhat greater inclination to Democratic candidates overall.
There has been some controversy surrounding how the election went down. Governor-elect Youngkin made a mark on people by promising that public schools would stop teaching critical-race theory and topics of great controversy, especially in many of the more urban counties, which tend to vote democratic. Furthermore, because of Yougkin’s stance and pledges regarding education, a survey found that Virginian parents were 56% more inclined to vote for him than McAuliffe. Moreover, Youngkin has promised to make a change in abortion legislation, which is very possible now since the Virginia House of Delegates may soon see a Republican majority.
In addition, Biden’s declining popularity has lent itself towards dwindling margins between parties, and resulted in hurting McAuliffe’s run for governor. Many people of color, who usually tend to vote more liberal, are displeased with Biden and his lack of policies supporting them. Former President Trump was better with handling the legal immigration process than Biden is right now, and voters have been complaining about inflation surrounding the Infrastructure Bill, increasing gas prices, the mismanaged withdrawal from Afghanistan, and how the Democratic members of Congress don’t seem to be helping much. Since Youngkin campaigned in such a way where he did not show any relation to the former president, he was able to keep his core conservative group, while also still being able to appeal to a more moderate group. The combination of all these factors has led to a decrease in popularity for the Democratic party statewide, and even though most counties retained their Democratic or Republican majority to some extent, overall, the number of Republican ballots increased, lending Youngkin the win.
The low democratic showing in Virginia, alone, does not seem overly significant, but is a prelude to how the 2022 midterm elections will turn out. Even in New Jersey there was a surprisingly close election - considering that New Jersey is a consistently Democratic-voting state - with Murphy winning by only a 6 percent majority. These events show how conservative candidates can have mass appeal across various groups and maneuver the political waters without touching taboo subjects, such as former President Trump.