‘A different kind of candidate’ — Glenn Youngkin touts outsider status in Va. governor’s race

Glenn Youngkin
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a rally in Glen Allen, Va., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Youngkin will face Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Virginians have a few days left to vote for the commonwealth’s statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Seven candidates for those seats — gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe, Glenn Youngkin and Princess Blanding; lieutenant governor candidates Haya Ayala and Winsome Sears, and attorney general candidates Mark Herring and Jason Miyares — sat for conversations with WTOP’s Nick Iannelli.

As is generally the case, there has been no shortage of attacks in the Virginia campaign, and no shortage of places to find out about them. Some of that is fair game and important to know; some of it, not so much; some of it isn’t true. What we’ve done here is keep phrases such as “my opponent wants …” and “my opponent says …” to an absolute minimum. You’re getting the candidates’ views on themselves, what they would do in office and why they want to do it.

Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, provides a stark contrast to his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe. Whereas McAuliffe, a former governor, has spent a career in politics, Youngkin has never run for public office before.

He says Virginians need a political newcomer.

Youngkin, the former CEO of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, said he decided to run for governor — his first run for any kind of office — because he believed it was “a moment where Virginians might really like to choose a different kind of candidate.”

Read Nick Iannelli’s interview with Youngkin’s opponents, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding.

The economy

The Republican candidate told WTOP’s Nick Iannelli that his “30-year business career of building business and creating jobs” will pull the commonwealth out of what he calls “a stalled economy.”

Asked how business experience is transferable to being governor, Youngkin pointed to the size of the Carlyle Group’s assets — four times the commonwealth’s budget, he claimed. He added, “I go into this job owing nothing to anybody” and “I know how to get things done.”

When Iannelli pointed out that earlier this year CNBC named Virginia the best state to do business for the second year in a row, Youngkin said, “I’m a homegrown Virginian, and I love when Virginia gets awards and accolades, but the reality is Virginia is not performing like the best state to do business.”

He said job growth in the states south of Virginia dwarfed that of Virginia, and that “over the course of the last eight years, we’re watching Virginians move away. We see more of Virginians moving away than moving here from the other 49 states for job opportunities and cost of living.”

(PolitiFact Virginia rated this statement as Mostly True, saying that while Youngkin’s numbers added up, the underlying factors, including federal budget cuts and real estate prices, were largely beyond a governor’s control.)

Youngkin added that, while Virginia topped the list on balance, the commonwealth was “rated very poorly by CNBC” in the areas of infrastructure, cost of living and the cost of doing business. (CNBC ranked Virginia No. 24, No. 32 and No. 26 in those categories, respectively.) “And we must keep Virginians here, so they don’t move away and we [don’t] hollow out our future.”

Youngkin said the preservation of Virginia as what’s called a right-to-work state is a major priority, calling a movement to change that law the biggest economic threat to Virginia going forward.

“Terry McAuliffe wants to get rid of right-to-work,” Youngkin said of the law, which prevents unions from charging dues to workers who don’t want to pay, while continuing to require unions to bargain and work on their behalf. Proponents of right-to-work say that the resultant drop in union membership makes it easier for businesses to expand, move and create jobs, while opponents say that flexibility comes at the cost of lower wages and salaries for workers.

“This is one of the biggest challenges to Virginia’s economic future,” Youngkin said. “And one candidate — Terry McAuliffe — is going to sacrifice it. And I, Glenn Youngkin, will preserve it.”

The Trump factor

Youngkin’s relationship with Republican Party standard-bearer Donald Trump has recurred as an issue in the campaign. The former president has endorsed Youngkin, and has indicated that he will appear in a tele-rally for the candidate.

Youngkin, as McAuliffe has endlessly quoted, once said that Trump “represents so much of why I’m running.” The Republican nominee also recently appeared on the radio show of former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka. The Jewish American news outlet The Forward has reported that Gorka was a member of a Hungarian far-right group listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II.

Youngkin brushed past the question, saying of McAuliffe, “He’s doing everything he can to not run against me,” and reiterated his support of the party’s decades-old values.

“I’m a Republican,” he said. “I believe in small government; I believe in low taxes. I believe in our Constitution; I believe that there’s a there’s a role for government to create an environment for individuals and for businesses to reach their dreams. But I don’t believe that big government needs to tell people what to do.”

Youngkin, who didn’t contribute to Trump’s reelection campaign last year, said that in contrast to Trump’s lies about a stolen election, “I have said that President Biden is our president.”

That said, he said of Trump, “I don’t know if he’s gonna run for president again. And so I’m going to support the Republican candidate when the Republican candidate runs for president next time and I don’t know who that’s gonna be.”

He added, in an echo of Trump, that election integrity would be a priority.

“When I’m governor, we’re gonna invest in our election process just like Florida did. After the controversies back with the hanging chad incident (in the 2000 presidential election), … now Floridians really trust their election process. And I think that’s what Virginians deserve.”

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said Florida’s 2020 election went off without a hitch, he signed a bill in the spring that made it more difficult for people to drop off others’ absentee ballots, allows drop boxes to only be open when voting locations are, and shortens the number of election cycles a mail ballot request is good for.

Vaccines, abortion

While Youngkin called COVID-19 vaccination “the best way for people to stay safe,” he’s against mandates.

“I made the decision, my family made the decision, to get the vaccine, and I have been actively encouraging Virginians to get the vaccine,” Youngkin said. “ … I think Virginians should be allowed to make that decision on their own, however. I respect their ability to make that decision, as opposed to my opponent. What he wants to do is tell everybody what to do.”

“We can be advocates for the vaccine; we don’t have to mandate it,” Youngkin added. “These are decisions that Virginians can make.”

He added that, while he is an opponent of abortion rights, he was against the recent Texas bill that prevents virtually all abortions in the state, in part by establishing civil, privately enforced penalties rather than criminal ones for people who get, or help others get, abortions.

“I am pro-life,” Youngkin said. “I do believe in exceptions in the case of rape and incest and when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. And yes, I clearly said I would not sign the Texas bill. I think it is legally complicated and confusing.”

‘I have a plan’

Youngkin said that, after his nomination by the Republican Party in a series of mini-conventions in May, “all Republicans came together. Republicans that were for President Donald Trump, Republicans that didn’t like President Donald Trump, single-issue voters, libertarians, folks in the Tea Party — they all came together to support me as their candidate because I, in fact, have a plan and have the capabilities to lead Virginia in a different way.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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