Republican Glenn Youngkin on Nov. 2 defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for the governorship of Virginia, according to a projection by Decision Desk HQ.
Youngkin led McAuliffe 54–45, with 72 percent of the precincts reporting at 9:17 p.m. ET. Decision Desk HQ called the race 40 minutes earlier.
Republicans swept all three competitive elections in Virginia on Tuesday, with Winsome Sears winning the lieutenant governor contest and Jason Miyares triumphing in the race for the seat of the state’s attorney general, according to projections by Decision Desk HQ.
The contest in Virginia was one of the most closely watched races in the off-year election and was viewed by some as a referendum on the Biden presidency.
Youngkin and McAuliffe fought an intense campaign over some of the most heated issues animating the United States, including abortion, critical race theory, and former President Donald Trump.
The race was also, politically, a test of how an electorate more concerned about the economy than the pandemic would vote. According to AP Votecast, some 34 percent of Virginia voters ranked the economy as their top priority, compared to 17 percent saying COVID-19 and 14 percent choosing education.
The victory is a red flag for President Joe Biden and the Democrats. Biden won the state in 2020 by a comfortable 10-point margin. The White House has been in recent months dealing with the fallout of a chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, inflation compounded by a sluggish economic recovery amid the pandemic, and a legislative agenda at risk of stalling on Capitol Hill.
The loss raises significant questions for Democrats for 2022 when the fate of the razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate will be decided.
Biden expressed optimism going into the evening while acknowledging that “the off-year is always unpredictable.”
“I think we’re going to win in Virginia,” Biden said at a news conference in Scotland. “I don’t believe—and I’ve not seen any evidence that—whether or not I am doing well or poorly, whether or not I’ve got my agenda passed or not, is gonna have any real impact on winning or losing.”
In 2009, during President Barack Obama’s first year in office, Republican Bob McDonnell’s victory in Virginia previewed a disastrous midterm cycle for Democrats, who lost more than 60 House seats the following year.
This year, both Virginia candidates said the implications of the first major election since Biden moved into the White House would be felt well beyond their state.
At one of his final events of the campaign, McAuliffe insisted “the stakes are huge.” Youngkin said the election would send a “statement that will be heard across this country.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.