Virginia governor’s race was most expensive in state history

The two main candidates raised about $115 million, shattering prior record.
Glenn Youngkin pulls ahead of Terry McAuliffe

The two main candidates for governor in Virginia’s 2021 elections raised about $115 million for their campaigns, which was the largest amount of money spent on any gubernatorial race in the commonwealth.

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and his opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, raised nearly the same amount of money. The candidates outpaced the 2017 election by more than $31 million and outpaced the 2013 election by nearly $50 million. They more than doubled the cost of the 2005 governor’s race and more than tripled the cost of the 2001 race.

Polls showed the race was close in the last couple months of the election with McAuliffe holding a narrow lead until Youngkin gained ground and became the frontrunner in the last couple weeks of the election. The turning point was when Youngkin set parental authority in public education as one of his top priorities after McAuliffe said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Youngkin narrowly defeated McAuliffe with 50.8% of the vote compared to 48.4% of the vote, according to the unofficial results.

If the numbers hold, the 2.4-point victory will be the closest gubernatorial race since 1989. The second closest race was the 2013 election in which McAuliffe beat out Ken Cuccinelli with just a 2.6-point win. The race also yielded the highest turnout since 1993 with more than 55% of the electorate coming out to vote.

When combining the cost of the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, including all of the primary candidates, the cost surpassed $148 million.