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VIRGINIA (LifeSiteNews) – Republican Glenn Youngkin is projected to win Virginia’s closely-watched governor’s race, dealing a serious, unexpected blow to Joe Biden and the national Democratic Party.

Youngkin, a private equity executive and political outsider, defeated Democratic nominee and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe in one of the first major elections since Biden’s inauguration and what is widely considered to be a bellwether for the 2022 midterms.

McAuliffe held a slight edge throughout most of the race, with a three-point advantage into October, though Youngkin closed the gap in recent days and took the lead last week. Youngkin is the first GOP candidate to win statewide in Virginia since 2009.

McAuliffe, a long-time associate of the Clintons who was hit with an ethics complaint just days before the election, conceded Wednesday morning.

Republicans are also projected to win elections for attorney general and lieutenant governor. Another surprisingly narrow governor’s race in New Jersey – the only other state holding off-year elections – remains virtually tied with 88 percent of the vote in as of Wednesday.

The Virginia upset is a devastating rebuke for Democrats in friendly territory. Joe Biden took the state last year by more than 10 points and almost 500,000 votes.

His approval ratings have collapsed since the summer, however, including in Virginia, where 52 percent of voters said in a Suffolk University survey that they disapproved of his performance. Two-thirds said that the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

Youngkin framed the election as a referendum on the radical left, campaigning on a platform that stressed parents’ rights, medical freedom, and lower taxes in a state with one of America’s worst-ranked post-COVID recoveries.

“This is a moment for Virginians to push back on this left, liberal, progressive agenda,” Youngkin said during a final campaign rally this week.

Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Youngkin in May, congratulated him Tuesday evening, saying that he “will be a great governor.”

‘Parents matter’

Education emerged as a major flashpoint in the Virginia race and the top issue among voters, amid a transgender rape scandal in a progressive school district and controversies over critical race theory and graphic sexual content in schools.

Youngkin called for school officials in Loudoun County to resign last month after revelations that they knew about a rape committed by a “gender fluid” boy in a girls high school bathroom but later denied that there was any record of bathroom assaults in the district. The same boy was subsequently charged with abusing a second girl at a different Loudoun County school.

The Republican nominee’s poll numbers steadily climbed after former Gov. McAuliffe declared in a September debate that, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said. “You don’t want parents coming in in every different school jurisdiction.”

“Terry McAuliffe showed us his heart when he said that ‘parents don’t matter.’ He immediately disqualified himself from office,” Youngkin said in a statement. “I believe that parents matter, and I’ll never put government bureaucrats or politicians between parents and their kids.”

58 percent of Virginia parents and half of likely voters think parents should have control over the content taught to their children, according to a Fox News poll last month.

The two candidates ran on starkly different approaches to COVID-19 and vaccines, as well.

McAuliffe came out strongly in favor of vaccine and mask mandates, urging private businesses this summer to “make life difficult” for unvaccinated people. Youngkin, by contrast, pledged that he would not mandate the COVID jab if elected governor.

McAuliffe also embraced a radical pro-LGBT and pro-abortion platform. Despite presenting himself as a “very strong Catholic,” McAuliffe vowed to repeal Virginia conscience protections and force religious charities to place foster children with homosexuals.

That stance earned him a public rebuke from the Virginia Catholic Conference, which said in July that his attack on conscience rights would “harm families who want to work with agencies that share their beliefs.”

The Conference previously slammed McAuliffe during his tenure as governor for vetoing a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, saying that “Gov. McAuliffe’s pride in protecting an organization that destroys life and harms women and their families” was “deeply offensive.”

Other measures backed by McAuliffe included an amendment to enshrine the “right” to abortion into Virginia’s state constitution and codify Roe v. Wade. In 2019, he said that he would not have vetoed a proposed bill that would have legalized abortion up to the moment of birth, describing it as “commonsense.”

“Terry McAuliffe is a longtime extremist and abortion industry ally who wants to enshrine abortion on demand through birth in the Virginia Constitution,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said. “It’s no surprise McAuliffe is backed by Governor Ralph Northam, who shocked the nation by openly endorsing infanticide.”

Youngkin, a Christian, has said that he believes life begins at conception and that he would work to end taxpayer-funded abortion in the state and protect unborn babies who can feel pain.

He also said in an interview with the Associated Press that same-sex marriage is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and that he would “support that” as governor.

In a separate interview in May, Youngkin said that “we’re just not going to allow” gender-confused males to compete in women’s sports.

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