Reason Roundup

In Gangbuster Night for Republicans, Glenn Youngkin Wins Virginia Governor's Race

Plus: The Twin cities both say yes to rent control, Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York City, and more...

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Tuesday was a very good night for the Republicans, who won one governor's mansion in a blue state and might still pick up another. The GOP's clearest win of the night came in Virginia, where Glenn Youngkin beat out Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in a nail-biter of a race.

Youngkin managed to capture just over 50 percent of the vote in a state that hasn't elected a Republican governor since 2009 and which went for Joe Biden in 2020 by 10 points. Republican former state legislator and Marine Corps veteran Winsome Sears also won her race for the open lieutenant governor's seat, becoming the first woman and the first black woman to win that office. Republican Jason Miyares also managed to defeat sitting Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

Meanwhile, the governor's race in deep-blue New Jersey—where Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy is running for reelection against Republican former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli—remains too close to call. This is despite predictions that Murphy would win easily.

The Virginia results are even more startling when one looks at the partisan swing in individual counties.

Republicans' victory comes after a contentious campaign where battles over education, and particularly whether to open schools and how much control parents should have over schools' curriculum, featured prominently.

Youngkin, a businessman and political neophyte, campaigned on opening Virginia's schools and giving parents more say over the kinds of books and materials their children were assigned. He also supported a ban on state-sponsored "critical race theory" curriculum.

McAuliffe, in contrast, ran on the riskier message of telling parents to butt out of their children's education. In a fatal debate gaffe in September, the Democratic candidate said bluntly "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."

When that message strangely flopped, McAuliffe spent much of the campaign embarrassingly trying to clarify his statement while doing everything he could to tar Youngkin as a racist acolyte of Donald Trump.

He called Youngkin's messaging on schools a "racist dog whistle" and even went so far as to claim that Trump was holding a rally with him in the state, when in fact he wasn't. The pro-McAuliffe, anti-Trump, anti-Republican Lincoln Project went even further, sending actors dressed up as tiki-torch wielding white nationalists to stand in front of a Youngkin campaign bus.

None of those attacks seemed to stick, in part because Youngkin did his best to avoid Trump and some of his signature issues during the campaign. The Washington Times reports that the governor-elect ran zero ads about illegal immigration. (That compares to 2017 when Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie tried to tar then-candidate Ralph Northam as an MS-13 supporter.)

Reason's Matt Welch notes that those attacks on Youngkin as a not-so-closeted white nationalist also carried the electorally unhelpful implication that parents' own concerns about their children's education were also fundamentally racist.

"If you tell parents that attempting to exert influence on their kids' school policies is just some kind of 'Let's Go Brandon' wink-nudge for hating on the dark-skinned, those parents will rightly tell you to go fuck yourself. Such choices do not successful political strategies make," writes Welch.

Youngkin's win has pundits predictably prognosticating on whether it's a model for a successful post-Trump Republican party.

Journalist Zaid Jilani argues Youngkin was successful because he merged a broadly popular conservative message on education with more populist policies like raising teacher salaries and eliminating grocery taxes.

National Review writer Michael Brendan Dougherty framed Republican successes last night as a victory over Democratic excesses on both the culture war and COVID-19.

The real reason for Youngkin's victory, of course, is that McAuliffe failed to endorse state-level repeals of zoning restrictions.


FREE MARKETS

An election night that was broadly good for conservatives also saw voters endorse some radical, left-wing solutions to high housing costs. Minnesotan voters in both Minneapolis and St. Paul approved rent control ballot initiatives.

The Minneapolis initiative, as mentioned in yesterday's Roundup, is the more modest of the two. It amends the city's charter to allow the Minneapolis city council to pass their own, as-of-yet unwritten rent control ordinance or to refer a rent control policy to voters in a subsequent referendum.

Over in St. Paul, voters approved something much more far-reaching. The ballot initiative there places a 3 percent cap on rent increases citywide. The St. Paul initiative, which was written by a coalition of left-wing activist groups, also does not include typical exemptions from rental price caps for new construction and newly vacant apartments.

There's been a recent effort to rebrand and retool rent control as an "anti-rent gouging" or "rent stabilization" policy that can prevent unfair rent hikes while not suppressing the construction of new housing. In places like Oregon and California, state legislators say they've managed to achieve this balance with rent control laws that respectively limit rent increases to 7 and 5 percent plus inflation, exempt new construction for 15 years, and generally allow landlords to raise rents as high they want on vacant apartments.

St. Paul's initiative makes none of those allowances and will likely prove disastrous for rental housing supply as a result. Minneapolis, meanwhile, risks undoing all the good work they've done trying to increase housing supply by repealing burdensome zoning regulations.


ELECTION 2021

  • Minneapolis voters also roundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have eliminated the city's police department in favor of a Department of Public Safety.
  • Former New York City police officer and state senator Eric Adams, a Democrat, easily won the city's mayoral election against Republican gadfly and Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa.
  • New York voters also rejected statewide referenda that would have allowed the legislature to pass bills permitting same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee ballots.
  • Byron Brown, incumbent mayor of Buffalo, New York, appears to have won as a write-in candidate against socialist Democratic primary winner India Walton.

  • City councilor Michelle Wu was elected the next mayor of Boston.
  • Dark horse candidate (and Republican) Edward Durr might have unseated New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney.