Parents of K-12 children support Youngkin as Virginia governor race remains tight

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With Virginia’s gubernatorial race one week away, parents who have children in kindergarten through 12th grade are polling strongly in Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin’s favor as the overall race remains tight.

According to a Cygnal survey of more than 800 likely voters, more than 56% of the parents intend to vote for Youngkin and just 39% intend to vote for Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe. The trend was similar for Republican House of Delegate candidates, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Winsome Sears and attorney general candidate Jason Miyares.

“Independent voters and parents of K-12 students are stampeding to support Republicans Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, Jason Miyares and GOP state house candidates,” Cygnal CEO Brent Buchanan said in a statement. “In an interesting twist of political fate, voters under the age of 55 are strongly for Republicans.”

Education has been a hot topic throughout the governor’s race and within local school boards throughout the commonwealth. Some of the points of contention include what role parents should play in education, how critical race theory is shaping the curriculum and how to balance concerns about transgender rights with free speech and gender-based distinctions in athletics programs and dressing rooms.

During last month’s debate, McAuliffe said parents should not tell teachers what to teach, which led to heavy criticism among conservatives and others nationwide.

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said. “…I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

When clarifying his comments, the former governor said he was defending his decision to veto specific legislation. The bill he opposed would have required schools to inform parents of sexually explicit material used in the curriculum and require teachers to offer alternative assignments for any students whose parents objected. McAuliffe reiterated his defense of vetoing the legislation in several subsequent interviews, arguing the state has a board of education and local school boards who develop the curriculum.

The Youngkin campaign has come out strongly against McAuliffe’s statements by holding “Parents Matter” rallies across the commonwealth and launching advertisement campaigns that highlight McAuliffe’s comments.

“After [three] weeks of confirming more than half a dozen times that he meant exactly what he said in the debate, McAuliffe has been ordered by panicked DC Democrats to stop spouting anti-parent screeds,” Youngkin Spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement last week. “But it’s too late – Terry showed us his heart. This is what he believes. His attempt to fool Virginians is pathetic, and parents know the truth because the videos don’t lie. Terry will have to answer for that … on Election Day.”

Chris Braunlich, a former president of the Virginia Board of Education and current president of the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute, told The Center Square the parental support for Youngkin and opposition to McAuliffe reflects frustration with policies McAuliffe supported when he was governor from 2014 to 2018 and the policies under current Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“From inadequate in-school instruction, to lowered standards and weakened accreditation, to school safety, the failings of the last two Administrations are now becoming clear,” Braunlich said. “A school system’s job is to teach, but the first priority is to keep the children safe. Virginia’s lurch to the Left has done neither.”

Among all likely voters surveyed in the Cygnal poll, the gubernatorial race was tied with both candidates getting support from 48% of respondents. On a generic ballot for the House of Delegates races, Republicans led by one point, according to the poll.

As of Tuesday, a compilation of polls from FiveThirtyEight, an election analysis website, showed McAuliffe with a narrow 1.7% lead, which shows Younking closing in from earlier this month, when McAuliffe was leading by about 3 percentage points. The Cook Political Report considers the race a tossup, Inside Elections says the race tilts Democrat and Sabato’s Crystal Ball says it leans Democrat.

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