Fiery Gubernatorial Debate Between McAuliffe and Youngkin



Raidon Bingham, Reporter

Last Tuesday, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin faced off in their premiere debate for the Virginia gubernatorial election. In hot political discourse, the candidates solidified their positions on topics such as vaccination and abortion. 

For opening statements, both politicians outlined their stances on Virginia’s COVID response. McAuliffe voiced his support for the actions made by the President on vaccines and said he would work towards adding the COVID vaccine to the list of required vaccines for students over 12. Such a move would affect schools across Virginia, including Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). On the other hand, Youngkin expressed limited support for the vaccine short of a national mandate. “I have been a strong, strong advocate for everyone to get the vaccine. I do believe that individuals should be allowed to make that decision on their own,” said Youngkin on the topic. McAuliffe pointed out Youngkin’s previous comments about college students’ vaccinations. “I encourage people to… stand up for [their] exemption,” Youngkin could be heard saying in a highlight presented by McAuliffe. All the while, insults and jabs were exchanged between both candidates.

The second topic of the debate revolved around the candidates’ stances on abortion. McAuliffe began with an attack on Youngkin, stating that the businessman “wants to ban abortion.” Youngkin stands as a self-professed pro-life candidate, yet claims to be a moderate on the issue. He fired back to McAuliffe’s remark, saying that the former governor is “the most extreme pro-abortion candidate in America today.” Previously, McAuliffe had stated he was in support of the loosening of abortion requirements in Virginia, including reducing the three-doctor rule for third-trimester terminations. After the initial bout, McAuliffe also revealed a secretly-recorded clip of Youngkin, in which he can be heard discussing his campaign strategy: to limit anti-abortion comments during his campaign, and to “go on the offensive” once elected.

Following the intense clashing over COVID and abortion, additional topics found their way on the debate platform. Youngkin questioned McAuliffe over a potential appointment of a parole board chairwoman investigated for corruption and fraud. The former chairwoman in question, Adrianne Bennett, was accused of ignoring proper procedures and recklessly releasing inmates. McAuliffe had a short response to the question: “if any of [his] appointees were to commit a crime, they would be removed.”

Another important topic was the  candidates’ stances on education. McAuliffe pointed out that Youngkin sought to reduce taxes and insinuated a decrease in education funding and quality. Youngkin’s platform on education stands to “correct” what was done by the Northam and McAuliffe administrations. He seeks to “re-establish” a higher standard of learning for students. A key difference in his stance is an insistence on the direction of the Virginia Department of Education “to protect advanced math classes and the use of advanced diplomas,” referring to the controversial Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative — a bill seeking to redefine upper-grade mathematics in Virginia schools, focusing mainly on the highschool level.

Following the aftermath of the Republican loss in the US Presidential election, many eyes have fallen upon state elections to gauge what political power the parties wield. In California, the Republican-driven recall election against Gavin Newsom failed by nearly 16 percent, throttling the Republican campaign to oust the entrenched Democratic presence. Now, it is Virginia’s turn. Both parties have campaigned fiercely to determine a race that may very well determine the presidential midterms. 

The 2021 gubernatorial election could lead to a complete reorientation of Virginian politics for years to come. Though the state has been a blue stronghold for over a decade, Republicans hope this year’s race will loosen the Democratic hold over the state executive office. 

*McAuliffe and Youngkin are to convene again today, September 28th, for their second gubernatorial debate.