Tuesday | November 2nd, 2021

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It’s Tuesday, November 2nd, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:

1) Election Day In Hotly Contested Virginia Governor’s Race

The Topline: The governor’s race in Virginia — originally considered a lock for Democrats — is now a toss-up, with voters set to pick between Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. 

Quote Of The Day: “I love…my parents but they should not have been picking my math or science book. We have experts who actually do that.”

– Terry McAuliffe, Democratic Candidate for Governor of Virginia

Anna Moneymaker/Staff/Getty Images

The Race

During the summer and into the fall, Terry McAuliffe was up big, but the final three polls before Election Day all had Youngkin ahead — one of them from Fox News showed him up 8. 

Virginia has been solidly blue for the last decade and hasn’t gone red in a presidential race since George W. Bush was on the ticket. There hasn’t been a Democratic governor since 2009. 

Independents were going for McAuliffe over the summer, but now appear to be in support of Youngkin. The last three polls had him leading by 7, 18 and 22 points with independents, which is crucial if he’s going to win in Virginia. 

Education

When school started in the fall, parents were increasingly focused on education.

Youngkin called for an end to COVID lockdowns and mask mandates, and promised to ban Critical Race Theory from classrooms. McAuliffe went the opposite route, supporting mask mandates and vowing to support a vaccine mandate for school employees. He also made the now infamous comment that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.”

In September, McAuliffe held a 33-point lead among voters who listed education as their top priority. Now, Youngkin is up 9 with those voters. 

Campaigning: In the final days of the campaign, McAuliffe was in Southeast Virginia, near Virginia Beach and Norfolk – two strongholds for Democrats. Youngkin was in Northern Virginia, in Alexandria and Arlington – two places where Democrats typically dominate Republicans.

Lev Radin/ Pacific Press / Contributor / LightRocket via Getty Images

2) Vaccine Mandates Impact NYC

The Topline: In New York City, around 9,000 city employees have been put on unpaid leave as a result of the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Last week, over 2,000 of the city’s firefighters called in sick ahead of the mandate’s deadline.

Quote Of The Day “We’re not clear what the numbers are. We’re not entirely clear how many fire companies will be closed today. We’re expecting dozens. We’re hoping fire coverage isn’t impinged upon, but it’s very hard to say at this time.”  

– FDNY Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro

“Sick Out”

City officials claim the sick leave was used as a protest against the city’s vaccine mandate, but the head of a powerful union says firefighters needed time off to deal with the side effects of vaccine doses.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and other officials claimed firefighters were taking “irresponsible bogus sick leave” due to “anger at the vaccine mandate.” 

Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said firefighters were taking sick leave due to side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. He said “hundreds” of firefighters were feeling “flu-like symptoms.”

The union says Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) only gave the Fire Department nine days to comply with the mandate, leading to many people getting the shots around the same time.

Jim McCarthy, president of the New York chapter of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, asked for more time to allow firefighters to get the shot or file their medical and religious exemptions. Some have even decided to retire rather than comply with the mandate.

Impact

City officials said around 84% of New York police officers had gotten at least the first dose by the deadline, as well as 75% of firefighters. 

A significant number of police and firefighters could be placed on unpaid leave for failing to comply with the mandate. 

Sean Krajacic-Pool/Pool/Getty Images

3) Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Begins

The Topline: The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse began on Monday. The 18-year-old is arguing that he shot three men in self-defense during riots in Wisconsin last year.

Background

Kyle Rittenhouse is an 18-year-old from a northern suburb of Chicago, about 15 miles from Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

On August 25th of last year, when he was 17, Rittenhouse responded to calls on social media to go to Kenosha to protect businesses from looting and vandalism due to rioting sparked by the wounding of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white police officer. He armed himself with a Smith & Wesson M&P15, a rifle police say his friend illegally bought for him, as well as a medical kit. 

While Rittenhouse was patrolling the downtown Kenosha area, he was involved in several altercations which resulted in him fatally shooting two people and injuring a third person. Both Rittenhouse and the three men he shot are all white. 

Before the shootings, Rittenhouse spoke to a reporter and said, “If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle.”

Known Facts

Rittenhouse was seen on camera being chased by a group of rioters, and one man charged at Rittenhouse throwing what appeared to be something inside a plastic bag, before appearing to attempt to take his rifle. 

At that point, Rittenhouse fired four times at the man, who died shortly after. The other shootings happened a short time later in a different location. Rittenhouse claims, and cell phone video seems to corroborate, that he was running away from protesters and toward police at this point. 

That’s when Rittenhouse tripped and fell. While on the ground, one man kicked him, and Rittenhouse fired at him twice but missed. 

Right after, with Rittenhouse still on the ground, more protesters began to attack him, with one man hitting him with a skateboard and attempting to take his rifle. Rittenhouse fired at the man once and killed him. Another man came up to Rittenhouse with a handgun, and Rittenhouse shot him too, injuring his arm but not killing him.

The Trial

Jury selection for Rittenhouse’s trial started on Monday in Kenosha. 

He was arrested the day after the shootings and charged with several counts of homicide and attempted homicide as well as unlawful possession of a firearm. His friend was also arrested and charged with illegally supplying him with a firearm. 

Legal experts say his self-defense case is strong, but if he loses, Judge Bruce Schroeder has a reputation for harsh sentences. However, the judge is also known for giving defendants a lot of leeway to make their case beforehand. 

Prosecutors tried to bar the defense from referring to the men Rittenhouse shot as “rioters, looters, or arsonists,” but the judge denied that request, saying the defense can refer to them that way if they provide evidence to support it. The judge also told prosecutors they can’t refer to the men shot as “victims.”

More Details

The prosecution has tried to tie Rittenhouse to the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s group, suggesting racial motives, but his lawyers deny Rittenhouse is a member. 

All three of the men Rittenhouse shot had criminal records. Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man Rittenhouse killed, was a registered sex offender, convicted of felony child sex abuse and was accused of molesting or raping five different boys between the ages of 9 and 11.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers wanted to argue that Rosenbaum tried to steal Rittenhouse’s gun, because as a sex offender, Rosenbaum couldn’t legally possess a gun himself.

Kevin Winter/Staff/WireImage,/Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Abortions In Texas

Since a new Texas law banning abortions after fetal cardiac activity went into effect, the number of abortions performed in the state has fallen by nearly 50 percent compared to the previous year. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that in September 2021, 2,164 abortions were performed in the state – about half of the 4,313 abortions performed in September 2020.

Austin Police

Austin residents have the chance this week to vote to expand police funding in a special election. In the past year, the Austin city council voted to cut about one third of the city’s police budget, the most aggressive police budget cut in the country. Over the following year, the city experienced a 71% surge in crime.

Colin Kaepernick

Netflix has aired a new special on former NFL quarterback-turned activist Colin Kaepernick. In the special, Kaepernick, who famously refused to stand for the National Anthem during his final year in the league, compares the NFL draft process to a slave auction. Clips of the episode have gone viral online, sparking controversy and criticism.

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