Youngkin’s Virginia win jolts Democrats; tight race in New Jersey

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin arrives to speak at an Election Night party early Wednesday in Chantilly, Virginia, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Caption
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin arrives to speak at an Election Night party early Wednesday in Chantilly, Virginia, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik

RICHMOND, Va. — Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor’s race early Wednesday, tapping into culture war fights over schools and race to unite former President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters with enough suburban voters to become the first Republican to win statewide office in a dozen years.

The 54-year-old Youngkin's defeat of Democrat Terry McAuliffe marked a sharp turnabout in a state that had shifted to the left over the past decade and which President Joe Biden captured by 10 points in 2020. And as the party felt the sting from that loss, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey was virtually deadlocked in his bid to win reelection in a state Biden won by 15 points.

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The elections were the first major tests of voter sentiment since Biden took office and suggested growing frustration. They also underscored that, with Trump out of office, Democrats can't center their messages on opposition to him. The results ultimately pointed to a potentially painful year ahead for Democrats as they try to maintain thin majorities in Congress.

The mood among Republicans was celebratory.

“This is the spirit of Virginia coming together like never before,” Youngkin told cheering supporters in a hotel ballroom in Chantilly, about 25 miles west of Washington. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared from speakers as the race was called after midnight.

Youngkin promised to lead not just from the state capital but with “a vision where Virginians’ power, the power that has historically resided in the marble halls in Richmond is spread out, spread out into the kitchen tables that are held together with the bond and the spirit of liberty and freedom.”

Caption
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin greets supporters at an Election Night party early Wednesday in Chantilly, Virginia. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin greets supporters at an Election Night party early Wednesday in Chantilly, Virginia. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Caption
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin greets supporters at an Election Night party early Wednesday in Chantilly, Virginia. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik

A political neophyte, Youngkin was able to take advantage of apparent apathy among core Democratic voters fatigued by years of elections that were seen as must-wins. He successfully portrayed McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, Democratic National Committee chairman and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, as part of an elite class of politicians. He also seized on a late-stage stumble by McAuliffe, who during a debate performance suggested parents should have a minimal role in shaping school curriculums.

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Perhaps most significantly, Youngkin prevailed in a task that has stumped scores of Republicans before him: attracting Trump's base while also appealing to suburban voters who were repelled by the former president's divisive behavior.

During the campaign, Youngkin stated his support for “election integrity,” a nod at Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, while also focusing on education and business-friendly policies. He never campaigned in person with Trump, successfully challenging McAuliffe’s effort to cast him as a clone of the former president.

That approach could provide a model for Republicans competing in future races that feature significant numbers of Democratic or independent voters.

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Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, takes the stage to give a victory speech in New York. (James Estrin/The New York Times)

Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, takes the stage to give a victory speech in New York. (James Estrin/The New York Times)
Caption
Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, takes the stage to give a victory speech in New York. (James Estrin/The New York Times)

Elsewhere in the country Tuesday, mayoral contests helped shape the leadership of some of the nation’s largest cities. Democratic former police Capt. Eric Adams won in New York, and Boston voters elected City Councilor Michelle Wu, the city’s first female and Asian American mayor. Cincinnati is getting its first Asian American mayor, Aftab Pureval.

Minneapolis voters rejected a ballot initiative that sought to overhaul policing in their city, where George Floyd was killed by a white police officer on Memorial Day 2020, sparking the largest wave of protests against racial injustice in generations. The initiative would have replaced the police force with a Department of Public Safety charged with undertaking "a comprehensive public health" approach to policing.

In the New Jersey governor’s race, incumbent Murphy was trying to become the first Democrat reelected to the office in 44 years. But Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli posted a surprisingly strong showing, campaigning on issues including taxes and opposition to pandemic mask and vaccination mandates. The race was too early to call with votes still being tallied.