In off-year election, Virginia GOP tries to win Senate and clear path for Youngkin agenda

Virginia has seen an increased Democratic showing in Virginia Beach, but the Southside region and the Shenandoah Valley remain heavily Republican.

Published: July 30, 2023 12:25am

Updated: July 30, 2023 10:11am

Glenn Youngkin surprised the political world – or at least Virginia's – in 2021 when he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe for the governorship. 

McAuliffe was a successful and popular former Virginia governor, and Youngkin was a first-time candidate running for the top elected post in a state that had been trending Democrat for over a decade – having elected a Democrat for president since 2008 and now having two Democrat senators. 

The 56-year-old Youngkin, who figured out a way to win while keeping former GOP President Donald Trump at arm's length, ran on an agenda that tapped into the angst of parents who felt left out of decisions being made in public schools, particularly about pandemic-related remote learning and so-called "woke" curriculum.

Virginia, whose state House is controlled by Republicans, did not hold Assembly elections in 2022, which denied the state GOP and red-vest-wearing Youngkin the opportunity to retake the upper chamber.

However, many of the GOP gubernatorial candidate for whom he campaigned for in 2022 didn't win. 

Of the 15 states in which Youngkin campaigned for Republican gubernatorial candidates, just four had clear Republican victories. And of those four, three were in deep red states – Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota, reported The Washington Post under the headline "Youngkin’s signature red vest didn’t deliver big wins for GOP nominees."

Without control of both Assembly chambers, Youngkin has largely relied on policy changes from within his administration to advance his campaign promises– including ones on so-call "preferred pronouns" to address transgender students and transgenders participating in school sports.

He hopes to have better political "coattails" this year than he did last year.

Youngkin, whose most-recent approval rating was at 51%, has been raising millions of dollars into his PAC and cut an early ad campaign in mid-May in battleground seats, according to Politico.

On the question of whether Youngkin is still considering a last-minute, 2024 presidential bid, the Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC told Politico several weeks ago: “The governor is solely focused and committed on what we have to do over the next 144 days.

"His whole focus, our organization’s whole focus, everything we’re doing is completely focused on maintaining our majority in the House and flipping the state Senate. And that’s enough to keep us busy.”

In addition, Youngkin has also embraced early voting, an effort to match and surpass Democrats who have used that balloting method in recent election cycles to win races.

"Governor Youngkin and the Spirit of Virginia have invested big time money heading into 2023 to try to change that voting behavior and get conservatives comfortable with early voting with mail and voting, and also with [legal] ballot harvesting," Scott Parkinson, a Virginia GOP Senate candidate, recently told Just the News.

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