Henry Bedell, '23
The Virginia gubernatorial election, which takes place in the odd year between presidential and midterm elections, has historically been known as a bellwether for the midterms nationwide. This year, the significance of the campaign race is more pronounced than ever, considering how deeply split the nation has been since the last presidential election.
While Virginia has been moving towards becoming a safely democratic state in national elections, the governor’s race will be much closer. Currently, according to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, McAuliffe has a practically negligible 2.5 percent advantage compared to the 11.8 point lead Biden held last year going into Election Day. The specific significance of the 2021 race is that, given that former President Trump has endorsed Youngkin and that President Biden is campaigning for McAuliffe, this race is shaping up to be a referendum on Biden’s first year in office, where low approval ratings reflect poorly on McAuliffe. That being said, just because Biden is polling poorly shouldn’t mean that McAuliffe is the worst of the two candidates for governor, as he can bring several important things to the state of Virginia.
Primarily, he has experience leading. McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018, a turbulent time in Virginian politics given the events in Charlottesville in 2017. Even with this, and the nationwide split ever growing between parties, McAuliffe left office with an 11 percent spread between approval and disapproval, and his Lieutenant Governor, Ralph Northam, was able to comfortably continue the Democratic hold over the governor’s office with 54 percent of the popular vote (a significant increase from the 49 percent of votes with which Hillary Clinton won the state’s electoral votes a year before). Clearly, Virginians were satisfied enough with his performance that they elected his second in command, showing that they would most likely have reelected him if Virginia’s one-term governor rule were not in place.
On his policy, however, McAuliffe shows more strengths and adaptations to the needs of Virginians since his last time in office. A $15 national minimum wage was a hot topic during the presidential election, with the president recently issuing a $15 minimum for employees on federal contracts, but no national mandate. McAuliffe supports a $15 minimum, which Virginia needs, considering that if a minimum wage worker in NoVa wanted to rent a one bedroom apartment, the current $9.50 hourly pay that they get would not come close to covering the cost of this apartment.
Monthly, given a 40 hour work week, minimum wage employees would make $1,646 before taxes, and one bedroom apartments in Virginia’s most populated region rarely go for much less than $2,000 a month. For essential workers to not be able to afford housing is absurd, and the $15 minimum is the obvious and simple solution to this problem.
Another hot-button issue that the candidates seem to disagree upon is climate change. Youngkin has no official policy on climate change, which—given that every year, we use up Earth’s resources faster and faster—is equivalent to standing by and watching the world burn. McAuliffe, however, proactively campaigns for clean energy and has detailed his plan for “accelerating Virginia’s path to 100% clean energy by 2035.” By equitably improving access to clean public transportation, among other improvements to the transportation system—one of the state’s biggest pollutants—his plan will concurrently seek to erase environmental inequity between communities dominated by people of color.
McAuliffe looks out for Virginia’s youth as well. The first section on his campaign’s webpage, and the headline of his campaign, is fixing Virginia’s education system. An alarming statistic is that 44% of children entered kindergarten in the fall of 2019 without the skills needed in critical areas of development. As one might expect, this percentage was greater among students from low income families (56%) and with disabilities (66%). This is the product of an underfunded preschool system and McAuliffe seeks to fix that while simultaneously reducing education inequity. Given his track record of boosting jobs and lowering inequities as governor and his plans that aim to continue this, Terry McAuliffe is the clear choice for governor of Virginia.
Cover Photo from McAuliffe Campaign Website
2021 gov. polls:
2020 pres. polls:
2017 gov. results:
2016 pres. results:
VA month of min. Wage work:
Biden federal contract minimum wage:
McAuliffe clean energy plan:
McAuliffe education plan:
The Exchanged Mission Statement
Our publication is by students, for students. It is a platform for students to express their ideas freely... Read More...