Voters in Virginia spoke with our reporters on Election Day about the state’s neck-and-neck governor’s race.
This report was published in conjunction with USA Today.
By Cristobella Durrette
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Voters across the Richmond area said that they cast their ballot against the possible construction of a casino in the city.
“I think casinos are disgusting,” said Tyler Smith, 25, of Fairfax, at the GW Carver Elementary school polling location. “Gambling is insanely addictive…I don’t want any other reasons for people to go to casinos, to bet money that they don’t have and put themselves in holes that they don’t need to be in.”
Liza Grishaeva, 24, of Randoff, expressed similar concerns, saying she doesn’t support the casino’s construction because of “how it takes money out of poor neighborhoods into the hands of people with money.”
Kianna Hutt, 21, of Dinwiddie, said that she worried how the casino could impact the surrounding community.
“I voted no for the casino because I like Richmond as it is,” Hutt said at the VCU University Commons polling location. “And I think with all of that, it’s going to increase traffic and pollution.”
By Katherine Huggins
WOODFORD, VIRGINIA — Election integrity and education remain prime concerns for? some? Republicans casting ballots at the Upper Caroline Fire Department polling station.
One Glenn Youngkin voter, 62-year-old Marie Smith, said she previously encountered issues ?trying to ?vot?e.
“At first, they first said it was the paper that wasn’t good, then they said it was the pen, and then they said, ’well you did you wash your hands with that hand sanitizer?’” Smith said, noting that the polling station ultimately issued her a third ballot.
She said that she believes her initial ballot would have been accepted if she had voted Democrat and is particularly concerned about election integrity due to her experience.
“I think they’re going to cheat, I really think Democrats are going to cheat,” she said.
Top issues for Smith included protecting free speech, gun rights and education.
She said her son started homeschooling a few years ago, and she encouraged her daughter to do the same amid the pandemic.
“I told my daughter, I say ‘you take them children out of there, I don’t trust any of the schools,’ so she took them out and they’re actually doing better,” Smith said.
Education appeared to be an area of particular interest in Woodford, with voters voicing strong opinions about curriculum.
“What they’re preaching to kids in schools nowadays too about sex in first grade,” influenced the retired Linda Martineau to cast her vote for Youngkin.
However, Caroline County School Board member Tinka Harris, 64, strongly disputed Republicans’ concerns about curriculum.
“What Youngkin is saying about the schools is wrong, because we do not teach ?Critical ?Race ?Theory,” Harris said. “They teach history.”
She linked the gubernatorial race to former President Donald Trump, in the sense that he “brought up too many issues of hate.”
“That’s not the way the world should be,” Harris said. “Children grow up loving children, little kids — Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, whatever — play together and are fine.”
By Courtney Degen
STAFFORD, VIRGINIA — Bart Randall, a candidate for the Garrisonville District seat on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, said that running as an independent allows him to talk to people on both sides of the political spectrum.
“I think independence is a great process to be able to talk to both sides, to be able to deal with all people, and to be able to talk to them and to reach common ground,” Randall said at the John Musante Porter Branch Library on Tuesday night, about an hour before the polls closed.
Randall?, who served in the Navy for 24 years, now works as an acquisition manager for the Coast Guard, which requires him to run in a nonpartisan election. He said running as an independent also sends a different message to voters.
“I think being an independent sends the message that policy issues should be right and wrong, not right and left,” Randall said.
Due to Stafford County’s tremendous population growth over the last 10 years, Randall is focused on improving economic development and infrastructure, something he said the county has struggled with in the past.
Based on his observations, Randall said that voter turnout this year was greater than expected, likely due to an increase in vaccinations and voters’ willingness to visit the polls in person.
“The numbers, I think, are going to be very high compared to what we normally get,” Randall said.
By Catherine Buchaniec
FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia – Chris Connors, 55, has always voted for Republicans, starting with President Ronald Reagan. This year is no different, he said.
“I think a lot of people are just done with the Democratic Party,” Connors explained, calling the results of the 2020 presidential election a “travesty.”
Connor said he voted for Republican Glenn Youngkin, pointing toward corruption in politics as his main motivating factor in how he cast his ballot.
While Connors called for both parties to embrace outsiders and put in place term limits, he criticized the influence of lobbyists in politics and socioeconomic status of politicians, referencing the “DC swamp.”
When asked if he thinks Democrat Terry McAuliffe is part of the “swamp,” Connors responded: “I think he wrote some of the playbook for it.”
Despite Youngkin’s wealth, Connors said the businessman has the means to put more money in people’s pockets by lowering taxes and promoting freedom in business.
By Zoya Mirza
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — Abortion rights and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate were on some voters’ minds as they arrived to cast their ballots at polling centers in Fairfax.
Ellen Gbane, 59, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and resident of Centreville, said that though she was anti-abortion rights personally, due to her religious affiliations, she was pro-abortion rights politically. “Politicians should not be imposing their moral beliefs on other people. Women should have the right to choose,” Gbane said. She voted for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.
Alexis Frogs, 40, a librarian who voted at Fairfax County Government Center, said McAuliffe’s position on women’s choice on abortion was a deciding factor for her vote.
McAuliffe has supported women’s reproductive rights throughout his campaign, and vetoed multiple bills that sought to defund Planned Parenthood in the past. In contrast, his opponent, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, has described himself as pro-life, only supporting abortion in certain instances of rape, incest or a medical emergency threatening the mother’s life.
She said that if Republicans were really anti-abortion rights, they should take the repercussions of not getting vaccinated even more seriously. “If we want to give back to life, it only makes sense that everyone gets vaccinated. We live in a society with other people, and you can’t always do what you want to do. You have to compromise,” Frogs said.
AJ Tahbaz, 43, a resident of Centreville, said that though he was pro-vaccination, he was still on the fence about federal mandates. “I feel bad about people losing their jobs just because it goes against something that they feel strongly about. Maybe [the government] needs to do a better job of educating and informing people before imposing such mandates,” Tahbaz said. “I wish everyone could come to that conclusion on their own and get vaccinated, so we wouldn’t have to impose these rules.”
By Julia Mueller
CENTREVILLE, VIRGINIA — National politics may have played a big part in drawing some voters in Centreville out to the Virginia gubernatorial election.
“I’m kind of looking at the whole picture in terms of the country, not only in Virginia,” said Bradley Clark, an occupational therapist from Fairfax, as his toddler ran in circles around the entrance to the polling place at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Fairfax County.
Clark wants his votes to help “ensure that the state continues staying Democratic” but also wants to help push for progressive policies on the national level. Youngkin, on the other hand, is “more of a pro-Trump kind of candidate.”
“I really think that’s the wrong direction for Virginia, but also for the country as a whole.”
But these voters disagree about which direction Virginia—and the country—should be led in.
Larry Parthum, an Air Force analyst from Centreville, said McAuliffe’s “only job in life is not about Virginia. It’s about delivering Virginia to the Democratic party for the national election.”
Parthum trusts Youngkin to advocate and legislate against abortion — and said he thinks that McAuliffe is “a substitute for Hilary Clinton,” given McAuliffe’s longstanding political relationship with the Clintons and other prominent Democrats.
And voters also differ on the key issues that they believe the opposing gubernatorial candidates will champion at state and national levels.
For Clark, it’s McAuliffe’s ability to support the middle class. For Parthum, it’s Youngkin’s stance on abortion.
By Hannah Schoenbaum
FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA — Voters outside the Dorothy Hart Community Center said they cast their votes Tuesday in hopes that the outcome of the gubernatorial election would have ripple effects on the national scale.
Andrew Brunson, a 25-year-old line cook and student at Carnegie Mellon University, said he voted for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a tight race that he thinks will be a “litmus test” for future elections.
“I’ve been proud of the progress Virginia has made in the past four years, and Youngkin is very much a symptom of the hyper-right Trumpism radicalism taking over the country,” Brunson said. “We’ve got to hold our ground.”
Jimmy Whitman, a 47-year-old custom homebuilder, who canvased with his wife Tuesday afternoon for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, said he thinks a Youngkin victory would encourage voters to favor more moderate conservatives in national elections.
“We hope it sets a tone for the rest of the country that if moderates can win Virginia, we can do well throughout the country,” he said.
Barbra Anderson, a 55-year-old teacher at King George High School, who voted with her mother and son, said she favors bipartisanship but voted for McAuliffe to give Democrats the best footing in the midterm elections.
“If the Democrats lose Virginia, the Democrats will lose 2022,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, we have Terry McAuliffe, who I think is a weak candidate.”
By Jeannie Kopstein
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — While Terry McAuliffe’s comments about children’s education and parental control have animated Youngkin voters against him, they have also helped shore up support among some voters in Fairfax County.
“The education system should set the curriculum and not the independent views of parents,” said McAuliffe supporter and 20-year Northern Virginia resident Neal Bourroughs outside the polling station at Fairfax Government Center.
Bourroughs said that he feels education is one of the most important issues in this race, along with abortion rights; a sentiment which other McAuliffe voters share.
“I think the right to choose is very important, especially in light of everything going on in Texas,” said Ashton Fonville, a librarian who recently moved to Fairfax from Wilmington, North Carolina. “The fact that that could happen elsewhere is dangerous.”
McAuliffe’s tactics in linking his opponent Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump has also proved to be an effective strategy in garnering support from some voters here. “We don’t like Youngkin’s affiliation with Trump” said Bourroughs.
“Youngkin = Trump” signs lined the sidewalk leading up to the Fairfax voting center where Fonville cast her ballot.
While some Democratic party insiders have been worried about an enthusiasm gap in voter turnout following Biden’s 2020 presidential win, some McAuliffe voters in Fairfax feel passionately about making their voices heard.
“I just visited the Women’s suffrage monument, which is a reminder that this wasn’t always a possibility,” Fonville said. “I just think you should never take it for granted.”
By Julia Shapero and Katherine Huggins
By Allison Novelo and Annie Klingenberg
ASHBURN, VIRGINIA — Some parents who cast their ballots at Newton-Lee Elementary School in Ashburn said they had their children in mind when voting today.
Lisa Fitzgerald, 42, has three children in the district and said she feels like the school board has “put down parents” who tried to be more active in curriculum decisions. She cited Critical Race Theory as being an issue in the school board meetings.
“I think the school board forgets that we are a huge part of this community and if we don’t like it, we’re going to make some changes,” said Fitzgerald.
Another mother with a child in elementary school, Ibtihal Noureldin, 42, said she strongly favored Democrat Terry McAuliffe because of his stance on race and Critical Race Theory.
Noureldin had tears in her eyes as she said that her daughter, who attends Newton-Lee, is one of the few students of color in her elementary school and “suffers” because of it.
When Donald Trump was in office “it felt like a million years,” said Noureldin, adding: “Hate and race, all this stuff was raised when Trump was here. That’s why now, I care to vote more than before.”
By Cristobella Durrette
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA—Student voters on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus said that they did not have full faith in the electoral process, citing ballot-counting concerns.
“I just don’t have complete faith in it,” said Kianna Hutt, 21, of Dinwiddie, Virginia. “I just don’t think a lot of votes are counted.”
Hutt, who’s studying mechanical engineering, said that while she thinks the process “works for the most part,” she does not “really completely trust the system.”
Doubt surrounding America’s electoral process, fueled in part by former President Donald Trump’s refusal to certify the 2020 presidential election results, has eroded trust among voters.
Arlington native Kimberly Peche, 21, expressed similar concerns. The forensic science student said she worries about “accidents that happen when you’re counting ballots” or errors made by ballot-counting machines.
“It’s a little scary, but I think most of the time, most people try to do the correct thing,” Peche said.
Lauren Saxman, 22, of Fairfax County, said that she has about 80 percent faith in the electoral process, but that she felt her vote was secure at the campus’ polling location.
“At least here, I saw that they had people walking around, looking over the people who were checking people in,” Saxman said.
By Ariel Gans
STAFFORD COUNTY, VIRGINIA — For H.H. Poole Middle School Pastor Denny Glusko, 77, voting for Youngkin is an expression of his religious beliefs.
“Everything for me is biblical,” Glusko said. “The office is not a spiritual office, so my relationship is, where do the candidates lie in terms of abortion, in terms of homosexuality — all of those things that are biblical issues. Folks like to call them social issues, but they are biblical issues.”
Glusko said he views candidates through this prism to determine his vote in every political race.
“It’s the same principles with me,” Glusko said. “Where does that man or woman stand in relation to the biblical issues? All of those things, that’s it. Whoever the candidate is, I try to find out where they stand on those issues.”
Glusko said he believes the nation has changed dramatically in his lifetime. He said he the changes began following a 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision banned school-sponsored prayer in public schools.
“I was in the last graduating class in high school to be able to pray and to read the Bibles,” Gusko said. “That’s gone. It’s not there and that’s the sadness of when you turn your back on God: things change that are really wicked in the world that we’re living in.”
By Courtney Degen
STAFFORD, VIRGINIA — Parents at H.H. Poole Middle School on Tuesday said they’re voting for Glenn Youngkin because of their concerns over education.
“He backs parents and wants to hear what we have to say, and believes that we have a right to be a part of our children’s lives in the school,” said Michelle Merritt, a 38-year-old Republican and mom of two who works as a realtor.
Though he identifies as a Libertarian, Jesse Langenes, a chef who is 33, said he voted for Youngkin for similar reasons. Langenes said Youngkin wants to “bring more of the parent inclusion into the school,” and as a father of two, Langenes wants to be more involved in the local school system.
Denise Skotzko, 52, is a long-time Republican and government contractor who said she’s worried about the presence of critical race theory in elementary schools, though her child is now in college and the academic concept is not taught in Virginia public school systems.
“I do believe that there is a place for [critical race theory] and it needs to be taught in a certain way, I’m just not sure that elementary school is where it should begin,” Skotzko said.
Merritt also said she is concerned about getting her children back in school, and “not sitting at home, not learning and not being in an environment that’s conducive for learning.”
“I’m not a teacher so I don’t think I should be the ones teaching my kids, but I want to be an important role in helping [them] learn,” Merritt said.
By Julia Shapero
WOODFORD, Virginia — Virginia Democrats appeared to turn out in lower numbers than their Republican counterparts at the Upper Caroline Fire Department, according to Democratic Party poll workers. However, they remained confident in early voters’ ability to pull through for Terry McAuliffe.
Marvis Baker Pitts, a Democratic poll worker, said she believes early voters and voters in Northern Virginia will help McAuliffe beat Republican Glenn Youngkin.
“I believe McAuliffe’s gonna win,” Pitts said. “I really do … because people have done early voting, and I think early voting has been key for us as Democrats.”
Despite the lower turnout for Democrats, overall voter turnout appeared to be high, with a steady stream of cars flowing in and out of the parking lot at the polling center. Pitts’ cousin and fellow Democratic poll worker. Yvonne Baker Walker, said the turnout felt similar to a presidential election year, rather than an off-year election.
By Jay Shakur
MANASSAS, VIRGINIA — With about three hours left before polls close, voters outside their polling place at Jennie Dean Elementary School have education on their minds, though for different reasons.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin has leaned into education and perceived outrage over Critical Race Theory, which polls have suggested have been in his favor in a state President Biden won by 10 percentage points last November.
“The existing institutions have failed America’s students,” said GOP voter Walter Foreman, 23. “This election is about parents rising up and demanding what’s best for their kids.” Foreman said he agreed with Youngkin’s plan to ban Critical Race Theory in Virginia schools.
In their final campaign pitches ahead of Tuesday’s election, both Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe have made education a part of their closing arguments.
Independent voter Charles Mayfield, 42, said he was swayed by McAuliffe’s promise to support teachers.
“I want someone committed to teachers, he has promised to do that, Youngkin hasn’t,” Mayfield said.
By Andrew Marquardt and Jonathan Lehrfeld
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VIRGINIA — Education is on the ballot for both Democrat and Republican voters in Leesburg on Tuesday.
Parents like James Freire, 41, say COVID lockdowns have restricted parents’ access to school buildings, creating a lack of accountability over teachers and school board officials.
“We actually pulled our kids out of the schools because of some of the horrible things have been going on,” said Freire, who voted Republican. “The parents need to be allowed back in the buildings,” Freire said.
Education has become a pivotal issue for voters in the Virginia governor’s race between Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, highlighting a philosophical divide over what it means to be parents looking out for their kids’ best interests.
“I am raising a child who is on the autism spectrum,” said Sheryl Nelson, 58. Nelson considers herself an Independent, but says she voted for Democrat Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday.
“I just feel like a lot of marginalized people in this country have not been treated fairly, and I want to make sure that our elected officials hear the voices of people who are more moderate,” Nelson said.
By Andrew Marquardt and Jonathan Lehrfeld
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VIRGINIA –– Some moderate voters in Leesburg cast their ballots today for Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe, citing a desire to shift away from their fear of an increasingly extremist Republican party.
“I want to make sure that, you know, our elected officials hear the voices of people who are more moderate, and aren’t on that extreme end of things,” said Sheryl Nelson, 58, who considers herself an Independent.
“I am raising a child who is on the autism spectrum, and I have a disabled sister, and I just feel like a lot of marginalized people in this country have not been treated fairly,” she continued.
Kirsten Dunnigan, 49, voted for former President Donald Trump in 2016. After the January 6th insurrection, however, Dunnigan said she could no longer support the former president or anyone associated with him.
“I’m not really affiliated with either party, but I think Terry McAuliffe is more of both parties, versus Youngkin, who is just a right wing Trump follower,” Dunnigan said. “I grew up a Republican, but I believe in democracy.”
Some of the women also expressed confidence that the election results should be considered a bellwether for future local and even national elections.
“I feel like we’re setting the tone for the country,” Dunnigan said.
By Zoya Mirza
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA: Abortion rights and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate were on some voters’ minds as they arrived to cast their ballots at Fairfax County Government Center.
Alexis Frogs, 40, a librarian and resident of Fairfax, said Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s position on women’s choice on abortion was a deciding factor for her vote.
Frogs also criticized Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign and his method of promoting his policies. “I feel like it was a lot of fear mongering as opposed to just telling [us] what he wants to do,” she said.
Frogs said that she supported the federal vaccine mandate as COVID-19 still posed a threat and transmission rates were still high amongst the unvaccinated. She said that if Republicans were really pro-life, they should take the repercussions of not getting vaccinated even more seriously. “If we want to give back to life, it only makes sense that everyone gets vaccinated. We live in a society with other people, and you can’t always do what you want to do. You have to compromise,” Frogs said.
By Julia Mueller
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — First-time voter Vivienne Branson and her mother, Claire, a public schoolteacher from Fairfax, cast their votes for the Democratic ticket at Fairfax Government Center.
If Republicans take hold of the governorship, the Bransons would want to leave their home state of Virginia.
“He’s like a mini-Trump,” Vivienne said of GOP gubernatorial nominee Glen Youngkin. “I’m not doing that again.” Her mother, too, is “terrified of the prospect of having someone else like Trump in power” in Virginia.
“As a mother with daughters,” Claire said, “it’s important for me that they maintain their right to choose their reproductive path.” And for her children, she also wants to “follow the progressive agenda” toward renewable resources and climate change action.
These issues keep getting pushed aside, Claire said, and they’re not “anything I’ve ever heard anyone who’s Conservative mention.”
The Bransons acknowledged that Youngkin has promised to support of teachers and families, but Claire called this messaging “off-putting” and the “pandering” of a “tiny Trump.”
Claire worries that Youngkin is too detached to take care of his constituents. “I don’t think that someone who is a millionaire from Great Falls knows what the average working person goes through. I don’t think he would look out for us.”
All of this would make Claire, who lives, works and raises her family in Fairfax, feel uncomfortable in her home state.
By Ariel Gans
STAFFORD COUNTY, VIRGINIA — For some voters at H.H. Poole Middle School, today’s election is a direct response to Terry McAuliffe’s previous performance.
Courtney Van Buren, 41, voted for McAuliffe because of his record on social justice issues and views on racial equality.
“He has a track record of helping people that need help,” Van Buren said. “I think that with his track record and the things he accomplished when he was governor the first time, I think he can build upon that for the next term.”
Youngkin voter Monique Dina, 40, felt that, as governor, McAuliffe fell short in every category.
“McAuliffe has already been in, and his agenda didn’t work last time,” Dina said. “It’s time for new blood. We don’t need a career politician that’s not doing anything.”
While Dina said her vote was most influenced by educational and economic issues, she admitted that McAuliffe did not have “anything to do with the economy this time around.”
By Hannah Schoenbaum
FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA – Elections officials at Hugh Mercer Elementary School are preparing to request a third stack of additional ballots from the General Registrar’s Office after voter turnout exceeded their expectations.
Chief Election Officer Scott Vezina, 39, said he has seen a steady stream of voters all day, averaging 128 people per hour. His polling location was allotted 800 ballots Tuesday morning, which he deemed “a major underestimate.“
Vezina called the General Registrar’s Office at 8:30 a.m. to request 200 additional ballots and called again at 11:30 a.m. for 500 more. He said he will likely place a third request in the late afternoon, to account for an anticipated rush of commuters returning home from work.
“One of the electoral board members came here to see how things were going, and when I told her our numbers, they were like, ’holy crap, you guys are just killing it,’” Vezina said. “And I was like, yeah, we’re pretty busy today. I’m surprised.“
Vezina projects his precinct will log upwards of 1,700 votes by the time polls close at 7 p.m.
Fredericksburg’s 101st Precinct has more registered voters than any other precinct in the city, according to the registrar’s office, but volunteer Kenneth Gantt, 61, said he was surprised to see similar voter turnout to what he observed in the 2020 presidential election.
The Army veteran, who has volunteered at the polls in Fredericksburg for the last three election cycles, said voters in his community are typically elderly and tend to favor Republicans, like gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.
“The folks who really care about the issues, they always come out to vote,” Gantt said. “Where the influx comes is folks who have a real interest in some of the key issues of the governor’s race – the economy and our schools and the children.”
By Zoya Mirza
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — Education and curriculum design in schools were cited as recurring motivation for Democratic voters supporting Terry McAuliffe on Election Day.
Elementary school teacher Michaela Martin, 26, said she opposed the Republican Party’s perspective of parents having control over their children’s curriculum design in school. “I’m very much against the point of view . . . that [teachers] cannot teach multiple perspectives in social studies.”
Equitable, world class education was a notable proposition made by the Democratic candidate during his campaign. McAuliffe pledged to invest $2 billion annually toward education, and raise the teacher pay above the national average, in addition to giving younger children access to pre-K and diversifying the education workforce.
Bianca Ndlovu, 34, called McAuliffe a “trusted choice” and said his vision for education in Virginia was extremely important to her as the mother of a 10-year-old who is enrolled in Fairfax County schools. Ndlovu said that she herself had attended high school in Fairfax and grew up seeing different governors over the years make changes to the system. To her, McAuliffe’s policies promised an even better future for her son.
Ndlovu also said Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin’s association with former President Donald Trump discouraged her from considering him as a potential choice. “I just don’t believe in a lot of policies that Trump promoted, and I would not trust anyone who supported them,” Ndlovu said.
By Isabel Miller
FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA — For some voters outside of Hugh Mercer Elementary School on Election Day, which gubernatorial hopeful gets their vote comes down to education.
Caryn Vezina, 38, voted for Republican Glenn Youngkin. She said she likes his education politics and wants Virginia to go in another direction.
Vezina said Youngkin appeals to her experience as a mother and a preschool teacher.
“It didn’t make me happy that McAuliffe said that, you know, parents shouldn’t be involved with their children’s education,” Vezina said.
Vezina was referencing a statement Democrat Terry McAulliffe made in a gubernatorial debate on Sept. 29: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Lawyer Shana Gertner, 42, cast her vote for the Democrat. She said she cares about access to education and wants to keep the state blue.
“My child is in private school, but I do care about public school and I do feel as though a lot of parents don’t really grasp the issues,” Gertner said.
By Courtney Degen
STAFFORD, VIRGINIA — On a rainy Tuesday at H.H. Poole Middle School, voters expressed opposing sentiments on how President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will affect today’s elections.
Kayla Thrasher, a 23-year-old student and assistant manager at Weis Markets, is a Democrat who describes herself as “very liberal.” She equated voting for Glenn Youngkin with voting for Trump.
“I’m not completely happy with how Biden is running the country right now, but I’m definitely 100% against Trump, so I’m kind of just voting against him,” Thrasher said, explaining her vote for formerVirginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
However, some Republican voters criticized the role that Trump and Biden have played in local elections.
“The role that that’s playing in the [political] game right now is actually, I think, getting a little old,” said Michelle Merritt, a Republican, 38, who works as a realtor.
Merritt pointed to the McAuliffe ads that target those who oppose Trump, saying they wrongfully assume an association between local and presidential elections.
“I don’t think people are coming out today to vote for one [candidate] or the other because of the hatred of another candidate,” Merritt said. “I think they’re voting on their own opinion and making their own opinion based on just that candidate, not the hatred or the love of another candidate.”
By Julia Mueller
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — Mary Wagner, a retired public schoolteacher from Fairfax, was raised Republican — but today she’s handing out sample ballots at the Democratic booth outside the Fairfax Government Center, “hoping and praying” that Terry McAuliffe (D) will win out over Glenn Youngkin (R) in the state’s gubernatorial race .
“I taught in the public schools for 39 years, and education is extremely important to me,” said Wagner on what pushed her away from the Republican party. “If anybody is a good governor for this state for education, it would be Terry McAuliffe.”
Youngkin, on the other hand, “would like to take money and give it to the private schools, and make charter schools. McAuliffe knows better than that.”
Wagner is also wary of Youngkin’s affiliation with former President Donald Trump, and stories she’s heard of Youngkin promising to let Trump have a hand in governing Virginia.
“That’s just awful. I want no part of the Republican party like that,” Wagner said. “No part of it.”
By Cristobella Durrette
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA— Education dominated concerns among voters outside the Richmond Public Library’s main branch in Henrico County.
“I think if teachers were to be fully respected — as politicians all say they should be — then they are in charge of children’s health and well-being and curriculum,” said Patti Wright, 69, of Richmond. “I am a little worried about that with this election.”
Wright, a retired schoolteacher, said she hopes people “will vote respectfully” in today’s election.
Parental concerns over closures, mask mandates and so-called bias against white people in school curriculums pushed education issues to center stage in the gubernatorial race.
In their final campaign rallies ahead of Tuesday’s election, both Terry McAuliffe and Glen Youngkin discussed education.
McAuliffe on Sunday called for greater teacher diversity across the commonwealth.
“We’ve got to diversify our teacher base here in Virginia,” the Democrat said at a rally in Charlottesville. He also promised to create a program to attract teachers of color, should he win the election.
Youngkin on Monday reaffirmed that he will “ban Critical Race Theory in our schools,” despite an absence of material covering how racism operates in U.S. laws and society in the state’s K-12 curriculum.
“What we won’t do is teach our children to view everything through a lens of race, where we divide them into buckets and one group is an oppressor and the other is a victim and we pit them against each other and we steal their dreams,” Youngkin said to a crowd of several thousand in Loudoun County.
Keeping Critical Race Theory out of classrooms was an important issue for 22-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University medical student Douglas Hogan when casting his vote.
“Specifically, not teaching Critical Race Theory, things like that, in our schools,” Hogan said. “Teaching kids to think for themselves, not based on their race.”
For Whitney Tidwell, 33, of Richmond, the election gave her an opportunity for a different kind of education: to teach her young son about the electoral process.
“We’ve been talking about voting and choosing who represents our community, the values, so to show him that process and to talk to him about how we vote for people that we want to represent our community,” said Tidwell, who is Black.
By Annie Klingenberg and Allison Novelo
LEESBURG, VIRGINIA — What we’re seeing:Voters who stopped at Frances Hazel Reid Elementary School in Leesburg, Va., had no trouble at the polls so far this afternoon. “It was the fastest I’ve ever voted,” said Brenda Lopez, 48. Poll workers have been ensuring that voters entering the building wear masks and are providing them for anyone who forgets. Despite the rain, voters steadily trickled in during the lunch hour. Voters have been able to cast their ballots after only a few minutes of entering the school.
General Concerns on wages/workers:Voters who identified as Democrats and Republicans said they were concerned about wages — an issue that both Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin have said they would address if elected.
Debbie Johnson, 56, voted for Youngkin after the candidate promised to increase pay for teachers. As Johnson’s daughter is a teacher, she said she feels strongly about the issue. “I think teachers need to get paid more. I think increasing standards is important in schools.“Danny Lopez, 51, voted for McAuliffe as a result of the Democrat’s stance on paid family leave. “[It] is something that I’m kind of most interested in, I want him to win.“Another voter, Alex Fleche, 39, tied the issue of wages back to the pandemic and said, “I want to see the middle class built back up and people being able to have an opportunity to have a living wage.” Fleche said he is a “democratic supporter across the board,” and remains optimistic about the outcome of today’s election.
Youngkin Voter Perspective on Schools After just exiting the polling booth, Debbie Johnson, 56, said: “it’s important for Youngkin for win today.” As a mother, Johnson said she believes “kids’ parents have a say so in schools” and is “thankful” her kids are no longer of school age. “When my kids went to school here, Loudoun County schools were one of the best school systems in the country, and now we’re a joke on Fox News,” Johnson said.
McAuliffe Voters on Different Ways to Vote
A group of neighbors who vote together every year spoke on being able to come together again on Election Day. Danny Lopez, 51, said he’s “always been faithful to the fact that coming in person has the highest respect of the thing happening properly.“His neighbor, Samantha Duberstein, 31, added that in the past she has voted absentee, early, and in person, and has faith in all voting routes. “I think however you need to vote, as long as you’re voting, is important and I have respect in the system.” said Duberstein. “I think early voting is important,” said Brenda Lopez, 48. She said she believes “it’s more important that the vote happen than people worried about having to do it in person” because “there’s a lot of us who can’t take off work and we shouldn’t have to.”
By Andrew Marquardt and Jonathan Lehrfeld
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VIRGINIA — “We gave raises to the teachers for the first time in more than a decade,” said Wendy Gooditis outside of the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center in Leesburg. Gooditis, a Democrat, is up for reelection as the delegate for the 10th District of the Virginia House.
Education has been a hot button topic among Virginia voters. Gooditis, a former teacher, said she and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe are “committed to doing more for teachers.”
Outside the polling center in Leesburg on a drizzly Tuesday morning, Gooditis greeted voters after they cast their ballots and thanked poll workers.
This was one of a host of stops throughout her district, where she said she plans on discussing education and COVID-19 misinformation with constituents.
“[If] some percent of the population is being told stuff that just isn’t true, that’s not a referendum on the policy. It’s basically a referendum on who’s believing the lies, because there’s so many lies out there,” Gooditis said.