RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With a competitive governor’s race seen as a bellwether for next year’s midterms, Virginia is sitting in the national political spotlight in 2021.
Polls suggest that Virginia is hosting the most competitive statewide elections this year. New Jersey is the only other state in the U.S. holding a statewide election in 2021, but polls show a much tighter governor’s race in Virginia.
With more attention turned to Virginia’s elections, 8News is providing updates until the polls close. Here are a few from this week:
Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board
At a campaign event in Fairfax County on Tuesday, Youngkin called for an “immediate investigation” into the Loudoun County School Board following sexual assault allegations made against a student in the district.
One student is accused in two alleged sexual assaults reported at two different schools in the school district within a five-month span, according to Loudoun County’s commonwealth’s attorney. The father of one of the students who said they were sexually assaulted claims he was initially informed the incident would be handled within the school and not police, an accusation the school has denied.
In a civil lawsuit against the division, the father also claimed the first alleged sexual assault took place in a girl’s bathroom by a “gender fluid” student wearing a skirt.
Republicans have targeted a new law removing the mandate that school principals report certain misdemeanors, including sexual battery, to the authorities. A new state law requiring local schools to adopt minimum standards to protect transgender students has also come under scrutiny in the wake of the allegations.
“I am calling for an immediate investigation into the Loudoun County School Board for their gross negligence,” Youngkin told the cheering crowd. “They had a duty of care and they failed.”Youngkin added that if elected he will seek to require each Virginia school to have a school resource officer on its campus.
“Very serious issue. Law enforcement need to do their job and fully investigate,” McAuliffe told 8News on Wednesday. “You know, he [Youngkin] needs to keep politics out of these types of situations.”
Heavy hitters come out to endorse and stump for Virginia candidates
Prominent campaign surrogates have already made appearances across the commonwealth and will continue to in the days before Election Day, to help boost enthusiasm for candidates.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden have each stumped for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) as he faces Republican Glenn Youngkin in a race for Virginia governor. Biden will campaign with McAuliffe in Arlington on Oct. 26.
Former President Barack Obama, who was featured in a new ad released by McAuliffe’s campaign, will stump for the former governor at Virginia Commonwealth University this weekend.
Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Youngkin, has been outspoken about the election but has not made an appearance in the commonwealth to stump for the GOP nominee. But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley have campaigned with Youngkin.
Biden also endorsed 21 Democrats running for the House of Delegates this week, including House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn.
Early voting breakdown less than two weeks from Virginia’s Election Day
Early voting numbers won’t hit the levels reached for the 2020 presidential election, but Virginia’s move to eliminate the requirement to have an excuse to vote absentee has led more people to submit their ballots before polls open on Nov. 2.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, more than 500,000 Virginians have voted in this year’s election, compared to nearly 196,000 who cast their ballot early in Virginia’s 2017 statewide elections.
Four U.S. congressional districts in Virginia have had more than 70,000 of their residents vote early, VPAP’s analysis shows. Three of those districts, the 7th, 8th and 10th, are held by Democratic representatives and the other district, the 1st Congressional District, is held by a Republican congressman.
With Election Day approaching, groups target McAuliffe and Youngkin in political spots
Millions in political donations have flooded into campaigns this election season, helping fund a slew of advertisements. Advocacy groups from across the country have also spent millions on ads supporting and targeting Virginia candidates.
314 Action, a pro-science group that aims to “elect more scientists,” launched a digital ad in Virginia this week calling on Youngkin to denounce “anti-science conspiracy theorists who are targeting school board members and students.” The ad is part of a $10 million campaign from 314 Action this election cycle that is targets Republican governors, including Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
Free to Learn Action, which has reported ties to the conservative group The Concord Fund, released a TV ad highlighting remarks McAuliffe made during a debate on Sept. 28. The former governor said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” when asked about the input parents should have in the classroom. Youngkin’s campaign has latched onto those comments as well, using that moment in a separate TV ad released in the wake of the debate.
Voters in Virginia will pick a new governor, lieutenant governor and possibly a new attorney general this November. All 100 House of Delegates seats are also on the ballot, along with certain local races and referendums.
Virginia’s Election Day is Nov. 2. In-person early voting ends Oct. 30.