Virginians voted on Tuesday in an unexpectedly close race for governor that carries national implications for both Republicans and Democrats ahead of U.S. congressional elections next year.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a party fixture who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, has seen his lead over Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin in opinion polls evaporate in recent weeks.
A McAuliffe loss in Virginia, which Democratic President Joe Biden won by a double-digit margin over Republican then-President Donald Trump last year, would sound alarm bells for national Democrats.
Cultural issues have dominated the gubernatorial race, with Youngkin promising to give parents more control over how public schools handle race, gender and COVID-19 protocols, and McAuliffe vowing to protect abortion access and voting rights.
Polls leading up to Election Day showed that Youngkin closed the gap with McAuliffe by appealing to independent voters, a group that was alienated in 2020 by Trump’s firebrand style of politics but was more drawn to Youngkin’s congenial manner.