Parents hailed Republican Glenn Youngkin’s defeat of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race as a victory for their “parental rights in education.”
Youngkin, a political newcomer, edged out McAuliffe Tuesday night in a closely watched election that centered on the state’s education issues, including critical race theory and giving parents more control over what their kids learn in school.
“Parental rights in education were on the ballot this election,” Laura Zorc, director of education reform at Building Education for Students Together, told Fox News.
“Parents (Republican, independent, and Democrat) across the country have been saying, ‘We don’t want your politics in our schools.’ Tonight, parents delivered on their promises to vote these elites out of office,” she said.
With 99 percent of the expected vote in, Youngkin had 50.7 percent of the vote compared to 48.6 percent for McAuliffe in a state President Biden won by 10 percentage points just one year ago.
Yael Levin-Sheldon, a mother of two boys and communication officer at No Left Turn in Education, said Youngkin’s victory was a “win for parents all over the commonwealth,” according to Fox News.
Youngkin reassured parents he had their backs in his victory speech early Wednesday morning, saying his victory will “change the trajectory of this commonwealth.”
“On day one, we’re going to work,” Youngkin said. “We’re going to restore excellence in our schools. … We’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them.”
The Virginia parents who talked with Fox News reiterated that theme.
“This election has demonstrated that education is a salient political issue, and one that is likely to persist for the foreseeable future,” Nicole Neily, a Virginia mother and president of Parents Defending Education, told Fox News.
“If politicians ignore it — or denigrate voters and parents — they do so at their peril,” she said.
The gubernatorial race in Virginia came down to concerns about the economy, education and taxes, according to Washington Post exit polling.
For voters overall, 33 percent pegged the economy and jobs as the most important issue, while 24 percent said education, 15 percent said taxes and 8 percent went with abortion.
The major issues for Youngkin voters were taxes (71 percent), the economy/jobs (56 percent), education (55 percent) and abortion (60 percent.)
Eighty-three percent of McAuliffe’s voters said the COVID-19 pandemic was the most important issue.
Notably, 76 percent of Youngkin voters said parents should have “a lot” of say in their children’s education. Only 23 percent of McAuliffe’s voters said that, and 88 percent of them said parents shouldn’t have much say.
”It has been great to see how the importance of our children’s education and the parents matter movement has brought so many people together,” Brandon Michon, a father of three who has spoken out at Loudoun County School Board meetings for months, told Fox News. “This is Virginia’s opportunity to raise the bar, and we will be doing it with Glenn Youngkin as governor.”
Youngkin made Loudoun County the center of his push for parental involvement in schools, vowing to ban the teaching of the controversial critical race theory in classrooms and supporting parents’ objecting to explicit content in books like the late Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
McAuliffe, who served as governor between 2014 and 2018, tried to paint his opponent as somebody who wanted to ban books.
In a September debate, McAuliffe voiced the words that may have doomed his campaign.
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he said.
The Republican’s win “means that Virginians heard us, that we matter, that our children matter,” Patti Menders, a mother and president of the Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club, told Fox News.
“Youngkin wants the best for our children, and I think he’s going to thank Loudoun for all the work they did to make that the issue,” she said.