RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Critical race theory, dead children, horse de-wormer and Taylor Swift: Virginia’s off-year elections include a myriad of topics with the hope of inspiring voters ahead of Election Day where the fate of the once-purple state’s governor’s office hangs in the balance.
With less than a month left Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin and Democratic former Governor and party fundraiser Terry McAuliffe continue to be neck-and-neck in polling. Politicos argue getting out the base will be key to winning, but whether they're doing so is up for debate.
A recent Saturday morning in Henrico County featured a packed house for the Henrico GOP’s final breakfast meeting before Election Day. Conservative commentator Kenny Xu, a native of the area, spoke about critical race theory and took question for about 45 minutes. He argued race-based equity efforts in public schools — from the alleged teaching of CRT to administrative diversity training programs — were harming Virginia’s students.
“It’s a new death of excellence and it's eating children alive,” Xu said as the room nodded in agreement.
There’s no record of CRT being taught in a Virginia school system, but that hasn’t stopped Youngkin from asking voters what role parents should have in their children's education.
“Too bad,” the Republican tweeted out. “Terry McAuliffe says you have to sit down and shut up.”
The attack follows his Democratic opponent saying “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach” when asked about CRT in schools.
“Parents find it obtuse when they’re being taught their six-year-old is racist and they can pick their own gender pronouns,” said the Virginia-based conservative commentator Shaun Kenney about the backlash McAuliffe and school systems have faced.
“It might be the one issue that has galvanized opposition against McAuliffe,” he added.
Later that Saturday, in a driveway in downtown Richmond, McAuliffe stumped with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. The city was packed as street festivals and a pro-abortion rights Women’s March filled nearby roads, but the small crowd didn’t stop McAuliffe from utilizing his brand of high energy electioneering.
“If you go back eight years, our economy was in chaos [and] we had the most anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-environment, pro-gun legislation in the nation,” he hollered to the crowd about his first term as governor when he vetoed a record number of GOP efforts.
McAuliffe opened his event with a speech from campaign organizer Anthony Belotti.
“With McAuliffe running the state I’m sure we’ll see promises of LGBTQ inclusion expand,” the activist said from the podium.
Virginia’s gradual but persistent shift to the left has left the GOP without a state-wide win since 2009, and former President Donald Trump lost the state in 2020 by 10 points. But both candidates have publicly shifted toward the center in the hopes of reigning in the much desired suburban vote.
Kenney noted Youngkin’s slide to the middle has left some of those on the right wanting, especially after he rejected an endorsement from the NRA and said he supports abortion in certain circumstances.
“Both seem afraid to lock horns on policy and I’m not sure if that serves the voters of Virginia at the end of the day,” Kenney said.