- Republican Glenn Youngkin was sworn in as Virginia’s 74th governor last Saturday.
- Youngkin, a former private equity director, defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November.
- The governor will face a divided government with a GOP-led house and a democratically controlled Senate.
Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated as Virginia’s 74th governor on Saturday, becoming the first Republican to occupy the Executive Mansion since 2014 and revive a state-run GOP that had suffered several years of losses across the state.
Youngkin – a 55-year-old former private equity director and first-time political candidate – took office in the southern portico of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond after defeating former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe last November.
He succeeded former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who was limited in time and not eligible to stand for re-election.
The newly installed governor headed a wealth of Republican nationwide offices – with Winsome Sears becoming the Commonwealth’s first black female lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares as the first Latin State Attorney in Virginia history – in a state that has leaned toward the Democratic Party in recent years. . .
Prior to the fall election of 2021, Republicans had not won a nationwide election in the Commonwealth since 2009, when former state attorney and then-gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell led the party to landslide victories up and down the ballot.
Last year, the GOP faced a very different political landscape.
The party relinquished its majority in the Delegate House in 2019 when Democrats confirmed their takeover of the state’s suburbs, which had long helped the GOP retain power in the state legislature.
In the 2020 election, then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden easily defeated then-President Donald Trump by a margin of 10 points (54% -44%) in Virginia, driven by the massive unpopularity of the Republican commander in the Commonwealth firm. growing suburbs.
While many observers expected McAuliffe to win against a Trump challenger last year, Republicans chose to nominate Youngkin – a relative unknown in most state political circles – in a ranked electoral system.
When Youngkin realized that a full embrace of Trump’s political brand was not politically viable in bluish Virginia, Youngkin ran a race focusing on education and economics in an attempt to peel voters away, which had led to democratic progress in the state. It worked.
His strategy involved running against the teaching of critical race theory to students, despite the fact that the discipline was not taught to children in Commonwealth’s K-12 public schools.
Critical race theorists have examined how America’s history of racism continues to resonate through laws and policies that exist today, and Republicans – encouraged by Youngkin’s new administration – plan to use it as a key issue in the 2022 midterm elections.
Despite Republican abundance over their newly gained power in the state, they will face divided government. While Republicans were able to recapture the Delegate House last fall, they control the House with a narrow 52-48 edge – and Democrats still control the state Senate, albeit by a slim 21-19 margin.
And while Youngkin has appointed several prominent Virginians to his administration, choosing former U.S. Office of Personnel Management director and former Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James as the next secretary of the Commonwealth, along with former Attorney General Richard Cullen as his adviser , Governor hit a speed bug with Legislative Democrats by appointing former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler as Commonwealth Secretary of Natural Resources.
Wheeler, who led the EPA under Trump, has received a stream of criticism from Democrats for his environmental policy, including the repeal of water protection implemented under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
However, in a recent interview with the Central Virginia-based VPM, Youngkin continued to support Wheeler, who needs to be confirmed by both houses of the Virginia legislature.
“Andrew will be on the Glenn Youngkin team,” the governor said. “He’s incredibly qualified.”