McAuliffe, Youngkin make their final pitches to voters on WTOP

In this combination photo, Virginia gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Terry McAuliffe left, and Republican Glenn Youngkin appear during the Virginia FREE leadership luncheon, in McLean, Va., on Sept. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Tuesday marks the end of what has been a highly contentious campaign for Virginia governor, between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

And on Monday, the pair — who, according to recent polls, are in a dead heat — made their last pitch to Virginia voters during interviews with WTOP.

Youngkin, who has spent much of his career working for a private-equity firm, spoke with Shawn Anderson and Hillary Howard as he wrapped up a 10-day bus tour around the state.

Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin makes his case to votes during his interview on WTOP.

The major focus of the race has been critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how systemic racism is ingrained in the history of America. It’s not taught in Virginia public schools. But over the last few months, it has fueled conservative anger nationwide.

When asked to respond to Democrats’ accusations that Republicans have distorted the issue to stoke racial anger and resentment, Youngkin accused McAuliffe of making up things.

“The reality is that the beginnings of critical race theory in Virginia School started during his administration,” he said.

Youngkin also denied that he wanted books like Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” banned, even though the Nobel-winner’s book is involved in a campaign ad.

That ad concerned McAuliffe’s opposition as governor to a bill that would have forced schools to warn parents if their children are assigned books with explicit content. He vetoed the bill in 2016.

Youngkin argued it shows the former governor is out-of-touch. “This is why we see such a disconnect between where Terry McAuliffe is and where, candidly, the vast majority of Virginia parents are, which is all they want is to have a say in their child’s education.”

Another recurring theme of the race has been the shadow of former President Donald Trump, who was scheduled to take part in a telerally for Youngkin Monday night.

When asked how close he is to Trump, Youngkin replied “well, not terribly.”

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe makes his case for voters' support during an interview with WTOP.

Earlier on WTOP, though, McAuliffe pointed out that Youngkin has received multiple endorsements from the former president.

“I am happy to remind voters about Donald Trump,” the Democrat said. “He was the most divisive president we’ve ever had — his racist dog whistles and tweets and misogynist tweets every day. We’re better than that. As a nation, we are better than this.”

McAuliffe also defended his education record when he first served as governor from 2014 to 2018, and emphasized his plans to raise teacher pay above the national average and getting at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds into prekindergarten.

“His education plan is banning books,” McAuliffe said of Youngkin, “and, No. 2, talk about critical race theory. … It’s racist dog whistles. It’s getting parents against parents, parents against teachers, using our children as political pawns.”

McAuliffe also challenged the narrative that the race has gotten tighter in recent weeks.

“This race has always been the same,” he said. “This race has not moved really in the last four or five months. It’s always been a 1-to-3-point race.”

Turnout, he said, is key. “We’re not persuading anybody,” he said of himself and his opponent.

“It’s about getting your voters to the polls.”

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Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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