2021 Virginia gubernatorial election results, an analysis


The redder the counties, the larger the margin of victory.

Aidan Frank, Staff Writer

On November 2, there were two lesser-known Gubernatorial elections in the States of Virginia and New Jersey. Republican candidate Glenn Younkin pulled off a surprising upset in Virginia on election night. 

Glenn Youngkin won with 50.8% of the vote, sweeping rural Western Virginia and the central parts of the state. He also improved his margins in NOVA (Northern Virginia) which is mostly composed of D.C. suburbs.

In a state such as Virginia, which voted for Biden by 10 points in 2020, this victory is shocking. The trend was the same in New Jersey, with a nail-biter election not being called for Democrat Phil Murphy until 5 pm the next day. That state is even more Democratic than Virginia and hasn’t voted Republican at the Presidential level since 1988. Even in Democrat-dominated states right now, Democrats are struggling greatly. Why might this be?

Virginia has been becoming more Liberal recently, however, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s moderate campaign was able to attract many voters across the aisle. Independents and true swing voters said they liked his friendly nature and lack of controversial opinions. Even though he opposes abortion, gay marriage, and holds many other unpopular opinions, he did not speak about them on the campaign trail.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, was expected to win by a wide margin for much of this year until a few terrible debate gaffes and divisive advertising dropped his poll numbers, and he was unable to recover.

The next four years of Virginia policy will be led by a Republican Governor, State House, and Attorney General. These will shape social policy statewide for decades to come, starting in 2022, for which every statewide office will be held by a Republican in Virginia. This reversal in support for democrats may set the stage for larger Republican victories in 2022. A “red wave” election year like 2010 could happen again because of these trends that we are seeing. Virginia Governor elections usually accurately predict which party will win big in the midterms the year after. 

Some issues that may come up because of this are the controversial repeal of the death penalty by Democrats in Virginia this year, abortion, and taxation in the state. Also, the boogeyman of “critical race theory” was also a large factor in Glenn Youngkin’s victory. Voters in Virginia strongly disapprove of the idea of critical race theory across every poll, and Republicans used that to their advantage this year. 

Glenn Youngkin made the race a statewide one, focusing on issues and policies that affect the State of Virginia. The final nail in the coffin for Terry McAuliffe was his focus on national politics and his blatant fear-mongering over Trump.

A majority of Virginia voters dislike Trump, and he turned them off from voting for Republicans locally for many years. However, now that Trump is out of office and President Joe Biden is unpopular, that trend against Republicans in the state may finally change.