By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal & Guide
In 2013, when Terry McAuliffe first ran for governor of Virginia, he lost the white vote by 20 points.
But McAuliffe won 90 percent of the Black Vote and that propelled him to a narrow 3-point victory over his Conservative Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli.
According to Dr. Eric Claville, the Director of The Center for African American Public Policy (CAAmPP) at Norfolk State University, McAuliffe secured 47.8% of the vote and Cuccinelli, secured 45.2%
A third-party candidate, he said, registered a historic and strong 6.5% of the electorate, pulling votes away from the Democrats.
Fast forward eight years and McAuliffe is seeking another term as governor and polls show him in another tight race with this year’s GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin.
The General Election is November 2.
“Leading up to this election, McAuliffe is polling at the same level as 2013…48 percent,” said Claville. “He has not gotten over 50 percent in the polls.”
Youngkin is polling on average at the same place as Cuccinelli 45% and gaining. A third-party candidate, Princess Blanding, running under the Libertarian banner is polling at roughly 1.5%. But she could win as much as 5% mostly from young voters.
Political analysts like Claville say Democrats are experiencing an enthusiasm gap among the strongest segments of the party’s electoral base – African Americans, Hispanics, college-educated whites, and the young.
At the same time, Youngkin is polling well with suburban independent whites.
To counter this, former President Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, and President Biden have been campaigning with McAuliffe to invigorate the faithful voting segments.
Democrats have also sought to sprinkle a bit of fear in the mix by seeking to cast Youngkin as a disciple of the former President Donald J. Trump, who lost the state by 10 points in 2020.
At the same time, according to Claville, the Republicans have found a groove with cultural war issues related to education, notably the discord in giving transgender students more protection.
Also riling white Republican and independent suburban voters is Critical Race Theory (CRT), which has stirred heated exchanges at school board meetings and is used to raise racial fears of whites.
Youngkin has been using heavily his rival’s statement at a gubernatorial debate about parents not having a say in what teachers teach in the classroom.
Claville says McAuliffe must secure big numbers on election day in Northern Virginia, Hampton, the urban crescent around Richmond, Hampton Roads and the college towns of Charlottesville (UVA) and Blacksburg (Virginia Tech) to win this election.
“He has to win them big,” Claville said. “I expect him to pull it out with a 2 percent margin. Also, again, a huge turnout from African Americans and young new voters who went to the polls last year will do it.”
So far as the Lt. Governor’s race, State House Delegate Hala Ayala of Prince William County, the Democrat, is running against Republican Winsome Sears.
Whoever wins will make history as the first woman of color to fill the seat. She will be only the second woman to win statewide since Mary Sue Terry, who won Attorney General in 1985 and 1989.
Ayala’s father was an immigrant from El Salvador, and also has North African roots. Her mother was Irish and Lebanese. Sears migrated from Jamaica, owns a home warranty repair business, and represented Norfolk’s 90th House district.
Ayala is running on expanding business opportunities, expanding Medicaid, pushing for green economics which is key to the Democrats continuing the Blue wave.
Meanwhile, Sears is also talking about strengthening families, schools and creating jobs.
But Sears, a former Marine, is touting the conservative Republican talking points against reproductive rights, supporting more charter schools, and expanding gun rights.
Claville said that while Sears’ political themes are playing well in the southwestern part of the state, they are not resonating in the urban centers like Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.
Mark Herring is running for a third term as Attorney General and has highlighted his party’s criminal justice and civil rights reforms.
Republican Jason Miyares, a delegate from Virginia Beach, has lambasted Herring over the Virginia parole board, which has been criticized for leniency on convicts and for failing to notify victims and local prosecutors when inmates were being released.
Herring has fired back citing Miyares’ votes in the legislature against abortion rights, gun control, and Medicaid expansion, arguing Miyares is out of sync with a majority of Virginians.
But the top three political offices are not the only races being won, all 100 seats of the House of Delegates are being contested.
Democrats now own a 55-45 majority and seem to be poised to hold onto some fashion of majority considering the competitive nature of some of the races.
The election is being run using voting districts created by the 2010 redistricting maps crafted by Republicans when they controlled the process.
In 2019, the Democrats managed to flip several historically Republican districts, which are the most competitive in 2021.
One of them is the 85th District in Virginia Beach which is represented by Democrat Alex Askew, who is being challenged by Republican Karen Greenhalgh.
Along with the top three political offices, local Constitutional offices for Sheriff, Commonwealth’s Attorney, City Treasurer, and Commissioner of the Revenue are on the ballot.
Also, Norfolk voters will elect the councilperson for Superward 7, currently held by Danica Royster, who is running for re-election against five opponents in a hotly contested campaign.