Youngkin hustles to push swing state Virginia to the right

Jan 30, 2022, 7:08 AM | Updated: Feb 1, 2022, 5:52 am
FILE - Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin works at his desk inside his private office at the State Capito...

FILE - Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin works at his desk inside his private office at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 18, 2022. Youngkin has used his first two weeks in office to push Virginia firmly to the right, attempting a dramatic political shift in a state once considered reliably Democratic that's being closely watched by others in the GOP. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, File)

(Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has used his first two weeks in office to push Virginia firmly to the right, attempting a dramatic political shift in a state once considered reliably Democratic that’s being closely watched by others in the GOP.

In his opening days, the new governor issued executive orders methodically checking off his top campaign promises. The orders undermined classroom mask mandates, aimed to restrict how students are taught about racism, approved an investigation into a wealthy suburban Washington school district that’s become a national symbol for battles over so-called parents’ rights, and attempted to scrap Virginia’s participation in a carbon-limiting initiative meant to combat climate change.

Youngkin has also expanded the duties of a state diversity officer created by his Democratic predecessor to include being an “ambassador for unborn children” as Virginia dropped its opposition before the Supreme Court to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“That has ruffled some feathers on the other side,” said Republican state House Speaker Todd Gilbert, crediting Youngkin for sticking to his word. “I think they didn’t believe him that he was going to try to see through those things.”

It hasn’t all gone smoothly. The governor’s order weakening school mask mandates has been challenged in court. Many large school districts have refused to comply with Youngkin’s order, citing a Virginia law approved last year that says classroom policy should defer to federal guidance, which still calls for masking.

How Youngkin reacts will have profound implications for the governor himself — there’s already intense buzz he could seek higher office — and national Republicans who see him as a more palatable conservative alternative to former President Donald Trump. Democrats counter that Youngkin has taken a divisive approach in an attempt to appeal to the GOP’s far right, the kind of thing that would delight Trump’s base in a state that rejected the former president.

“This is not Texas,” the House of Delegates’ Democratic leader, Eileen Filler-Corn, said on the chamber floor Friday. “Virginians will remember the first two weeks of the Youngkin administration and the overreach.”

Even some in Youngkin’s own party are wary.

The executive orders were “fulfilling campaign promises. They were certainly very fast-paced and ill-advised,” said David Ramadan, a former Republican member of the Virginia House who endorsed Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, and is now at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and a resident scholar at the University of Virginia’s Center of Politics.

The political whiplash has already been acute. Youngkin’s November win shook up a state that was seen as reliably blue in presidential races since it backed Barack Obama in 2008.

His efforts also follow Democrats controlling both chambers of the Virginia statehouse and governorship over the past two years. In that time, they abolished the death penalty, legalized marijuana and expanded LGBTQ and voting rights. Many statues celebrating the Confederacy — even in its old capital — were also removed as part of the state’s reckoning with its history of slavery and racism.

Republicans hadn’t won statewide office since 2009 before Youngkin’s upset victory, which was only by 2 percentage points — about a fifth of Joe Biden’s 2020 margin over Trump. Tom Davis, a former moderate Republican congressman who long represented northern Virginia’s fast-growing, heavily Democratic Washington suburbs, said Youngkin’s win could have been the result of voters’ giving Democrats “a little bit of pushback” for how far left they tried to move the state.

“I think he’s stayed within the mainstream,” Davis said of Youngkin.

National Republicans are already holding up Youngkin as a model for conservative candidates elsewhere. They’ve highlighted his success at attracting Trump supporters without alienating moderates.

“The fact that voters turned out, and that Glenn was able to create the coalition that he did, is going to be a success going into this year and of course builds momentum for everyone up and down the ballot across the country,” said Republican Governors Association spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez.

Youngkin could even offer an alternative to Trump as soon as the 2024 GOP presidential primary — despite a field likely to be crowded with more experienced gubernatorial colleagues, including Ron DeSantis of Florida. Youngkin might offer much of the former president’s hard-line conservativism, the thinking goes, without the same hard personal edges.

“He came in on a positive note during a divisive time in politics and that’s appealing to people,” said Alice Stewart, a Virginia-based Republican strategist. She worked for Mike Huckabee when he was governor of Arkansas and speculation built that he could run for the 2008 presidential nomination — and he did, ultimately winning the Iowa caucuses.

“You’ll have people from all sides — whether they want to just talk about it or profit off it — discussing him as a possible candidate,” Stewart said of Youngkin.

Youngkin, who didn’t agree to an interview, says he will serve all four years as governor, despite the building buzz. Still, he raised about $2.2 million in around six weeks before even taking office, despite being barred by state law from seeking consecutive terms.

In other early steps, the governor has met with higher-education leaders, including the heads of historically Black colleges and universities, to discuss his legislative push to expand school choice. And Youngkin faces an early test over whether he can secure legislative approval for a controversial Cabinet pick: Andrew Wheeler, who was Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

Republicans retook the state House in November, but Democrats still hold Virginia’s Senate. Youngkin, who often starts his days at the office before sunrise, quickly began contacting Democratic members of the legislature as governor-elect, vowing to be a unifier.

Democrats have been especially harsh in their criticism of Youngkin’s first executive order, which attempts to root out elements of the academic framework known as critical race theory, or any “inherent divisive concept.” On the House floor, Democratic Del. Don Scott questioned whether Youngkin was a man of faith — prompting the governor to take the unusual step of visiting the lawmaker’s office for a closed-door meeting that lasted about a half-hour.

Another Democrat who attended part of the meeting, Del. Lamont Bagby, said it was cordial and productive.

But in interviews with conservative media, Youngkin has sometimes taken a sharper tone. During a recent radio interview, he criticized teachers unions and “left-liberals.” And Youngkin told “Fox News Sunday” that “Virginians spoke loudly, they want a new direction and this is what we delivered on Day 1.”

Critics like Senate Democratic caucus chair Mamie Locke took issue with the governor’s aggressive approach to executive orders and other early steps, such as the firing of the entire state parole board, which had faced criticism for accelerated, and sometimes chaotic, inmate releases at the start of the pandemic.

“That’s not the way you start out saying, ‘I’m going to hand you the right hand of fellowship,’ as they say in the Baptist church,” Locke said.

___

Weissert reported from Washington.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A resident wades through floodwaters, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Ubon Ratchathani province, north...
Associated Press

Tropical rains flood parts of Thailand, 5,000 seek shelter

BANGKOK (AP) — Water up to waist-high flooded some riverfront neighborhoods and other areas of Thailand on Thursday after a tropical depression dumped heavy rains and knocked down trees, causing at least one death. The heaviest rainfall, about 22 centimeters (8.5 inches) in 24 hours, was recorded in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani where […]
1 day ago
British Prime Minister Liz Truss visits Berkeley Modular, in Northfleet, Kent, Britain, Friday, Sep...
Associated Press

UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss defended her economic plan Thursday and said she’s willing to make “difficult decisions” to get the economy growing. In her first public comments since her government’s announcement of billions in uncosted tax cuts roiled markets and drove the pound to record lows, Truss said Britain was facing […]
1 day ago
The Right Livelihood Awards are presented by Ole von Uexkull, CEO and member of the jury, during a ...
Associated Press

Ukrainian activist among winners of ‘Alternative Nobel’

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Right Livelihood Award — known as the “Alternative Nobel” — was awarded Thursday to community activists and organizations working on three continents, including a Ukrainian civil rights activist. Oleksandra Matviichuk and the Center for Civil Liberties that she heads were honored “for building sustainable democratic institutions in Ukraine and modeling a […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

4th leak reported on Nord Stream pipelines in Baltic Sea

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A fourth leak on the Nord Stream pipelines has been reported off southern Sweden, the Swedish news agency said Thursday. Sweden’s coast guards told news agency TT that they have a vessel on the site of the leak, off Sweden. All four detected leaks are in international waters, two near Sweden and […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Mariners and Rangers play to determine series winner

Texas Rangers (66-88, fourth in the AL West) vs. Seattle Mariners (84-70, second in the AL West) Seattle; Thursday, 9:40 p.m. EDT PITCHING PROBABLES: Rangers: Jon Gray (7-7, 3.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 126 strikeouts); Mariners: Marco Gonzales (10-15, 4.05 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 94 strikeouts) FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Mariners -123, Rangers +103; over/under is 7 runs […]
1 day ago
FILE - Nyabimana (first name unknown), 26, shows machete wounds at an International Committee of th...
Associated Press

Trial of elderly Rwanda genocide suspect opening at UN court

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A frail 87-year-old Rwandan accused of encouraging and bankrolling the country’s 1994 genocide goes on trial at a United Nations tribunal Thursday, nearly three decades after the 100-day massacre left 800,000 dead. Félicien Kabuga is one of the last fugitives charged over the genocide to face justice, and the start […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Youngkin hustles to push swing state Virginia to the right