The stage is set for the fall election in Virginia, but challenges lie ahead for both parties and candidates in the governor's race.
Terry McAuliffe, who just won the Democratic nomination, is wasting no time getting started on his second race for governor.
McAuliffe captured every Virginia city and county to win the Democratic primary. He’s joined on the ticket by Hala Ayala, the Prince William County delegate running for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring, who is seeking a third term as attorney general.
Wednesday morning he spoke to News4 about his top priority -- education funding.
“They know I’m the jobs governor, but I’m also the education governor. I will fix education,” McAuliffe said.
His decisive victory over four challengers signals that Virginia Democrats are sticking with someone they see as an experienced leader, much like members of the party did last year in rallying behind President Joe Biden.
“Democrats believe that this was a very pragmatic choice, a choice that they made because he stands the best chance of competing with Glen Youngkin in November,” Bob Holsworth, a political analyst, said.
McAuliffe’s attacks on Republican opponent Youngkin began even as he sought the nomination and have ramped up now. Youngkin is a former private equity CEO and political newcomer prepared to spend tens of millions of his personal fortune on the race.
“He does not even have a policy on job creation. He doesn’t have a policy on education. He’s been in the race for 6, 7 months. He has one policy on Trump’s crazy conspiracy theory on the 2020 election,” McAuliffe said.
Indeed, for now, Youngkin’s campaign page does not contain any detailed policy proposals.
McAuliffe’s list is long. But Youngkin has fired back, accusing McAuliffe of policy retreads.
“What Terry McAuliffe is going to push is the same old, tired policies that he pushed back in 2013 when he was governor and they didn’t work,” Youngkin said.
McAuliffe is planning events with two of his opponents in the coming days. State Senator Jennifer McClellan and Jennifer Carroll Foy are pledging their full support.
Both candidates and their parties face different challenges as they look ahead to November.
With two white men on the ticket, Democrats might lose activists who wanted a more diverse slate. Republicans, meanwhile, have to find a way to re-grow their base.
“The Republican effort has to be on recapturing some of the lost votes in the suburbs and the Democratic effort has to be in remobilizing that Democratic base that has been so successful for them,” Holsworth said.
As the first big election since Biden defeated former President Donald Trump, both parties nationally will be investing plenty of time and money in Virginia, too.