Former governor and 2021 hopeful Terry McAuliffe was joined by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff at an Asian-American Pacific Islander turnout campaign event in Leesburg on Saturday, where the two touted McAuliffe’s economic and social policy accomplishments from his first term.
McAuliffe and Emhoff spoke to a crowd of about 150 people, and were joined by candidate for lieutenant governor Del. Hala S. Ayala (D-51), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D VA-10), Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, state Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87), Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj, and School Board member Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian).
McAuliffe, who served as the 72nd governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018, is seeking reelection in a race that, by many measures, appears neck-and-neck with Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, with just a month to go until Election Day. McAuliffe trumpeted the progressive social change Virginia saw during his first term, including being the first U.S. governor to perform a gay marriage, and vetoing a bill in 2016 that would have prohibited state contracts with organizations that provide abortions.
“We became an open and welcoming state, and our economy took off,” McAuliffe said.
He stood behind his record on jobs, citing that his administration oversaw 1,100 new economic development projects, $20 billion in new capital, and 200,000 new jobs in the commonwealth. He also said that he would commit to raising teacher pay, and claimed that his opponent’s tax-cut plan would cost 47,000 teacher jobs.
Youngkin has made education a central issue of his campaign, vowing to ban Critical Race Theory in schools, although it is not currently taught in schools. Youngkin frequently charges that reductions to K-12 accreditation standards during McAuliffe’s first term have hurt public education.
McAuliffe pointed to his record on healthcare, including his advocating for Medicaid expansion. During his first term, Republicans in the state legislature blocked attempts to expand coverage, but in 2019, a bipartisan bill took effect to offer coverage to over half a million Virginians.
“We fought like a dog for Medicaid expansion. Thanks to great leadership we finally got that passed. And thanks to that, 550,000 people have life-saving care. You know what Glenn Youngkin says about Medicaid expansion? He says it’s sad,” McAuliffe said.
He also pointed to Youngkin’s opposition to a vaccine mandate for COVID-19.
“Glenn Youngkin spreads his anti-vax rhetoric. He goes on a right wing radio, he says, ‘if you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. There are many good reasons to not take it,’” McAuliffe said. “‘He praises Ron Desantis and says Florida is the model. Well you know where we are in Florida today? 225,000 students are in quarantine today. 87 teachers dead.”
“At a time when we are trying to come out of this pandemic, we’re ranked 44th in the nation in job recovery. We need those health care workers,” Youngkin said during the final debate between the two candidates on Sept. 28, arguing that retaining workers is paramount to ensuring the workforce is vaccinated.
Before McAuliffe took the stage, Wexton emphasized the implications of the race in Virginia.
“Everyone in Congress is looking to Virginia,” Wexton said.
Earlier, Subramanyam said that Loudoun would be pivotal in gubernatorial race.
“I was here a lot during the Biden-Harris campaign so I do feel like this is a second home for me,” Emhoff said of his familiarity with the commonwealth.
Emholf, who served as a Biden-Harris campaign surrogate in Virginia ahead of the 2020 presidential election, urged Democratic voters to get to the polls.
Early voting is underway in Virginia ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2.