Youngkin fires up Buena Vista in campaign’s final stretch

Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s newly elected governor, held a rally in Buena Vista days before his electoral victory


Glenn Youngkin spoke in Buena Vista Oct. 28, a few days before the Virginia gubernatorial election. Photo by Shauna Muckle, ’24.

Shauna Muckle

Glenn Youngkin and other Republican candidates appeared in Buena Vista Oct. 28, where they railed against anti-racism teaching in schools and called upon voters to turn out for down-ballot races.

Youngkin, Winsome Sears, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, and Jason Miyares, the Republican candidate for attorney general, came to Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista during their Southwest Virginia bus tour, a last-minute initiative to energize rural voters.

All three candidates declared victory last week, in part due to a surge in turnout in rural areas like Rockbridge County.

Roughly 300 people attended the event, more than the 150 to 200 people than local Republican groups expected, College Republicans President Lilly Gillespie said. That number includes about 30 Washington and Lee students, she said.

Education reform was the talk of the event. The candidates highlighted their opposition to “Critical Race Theory,” a term that has received vociferous criticism from conservatives. 

The term is generally associated with teachings on structural racism and white supremacy in America. But the concept isn’t officially part of K-12 curricula in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Education, and it’s unclear how large a role it actually plays in childrens’ education. 

Youngkin said during his speech that he wants Virginia students to learn about all of the nation’s history, “the good and the bad.” But he stressed a need for limits on race education.

“We will not teach our children to view everything through the lens of race,” Youngkin said. “I will ban Critical Race Theory from being in our schools.”

Youngkin also slammed his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe for his comment in a Sept. 28 gubernatorial debate that he doesn’t think “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Youngkin appealed to parents during his speech. Large signs reading “Parents for Youngkin” surrounded him on the stage.

“Parents everywhere need Virginia parents to make a statement not just for our children, but for their children,” Youngkin said. “We have a fundamental right to make decisions about our children’s education.”

Youngkin emphasized other education reforms, as well. He said he wants to pass “the largest education budget in the history of Virginia,” with increased funding for teacher salaries and charter schools.

Alongside education, Youngkin pledged to pursue his other priorities “on day one.” Those priorities include eliminating Virginia’s sales tax on groceries, boosting job growth and preserving right-to-work laws that allow Virginia workers to decline paying union membership fees.

Youngkin assured voters that his business experience as the head of the Carlyle Group gave him the expertise to spur economic development in Virginia.

“I’ve been doing this for thirty years,” Youngkin said. “I know how to build business and create jobs. Virginians are going to start winning.”

Sears and Miyares, the other Republican candidates at the event, criticized their opponents as being out of touch with the electorate and promised to institute changes.

Miyares pledged to enforce mandatory reporting requirements for sexual assault in schools, a reference to two publicized reports of sexual assault in girls’ restrooms in northern Virginia. 

Those cases have reignited conservative opposition to transgender-inclusive bathroom policies.

Meanwhile, Sears echoed Youngkin’s opposition to Critical Race Theory, pointing to her own political ascent as a Black woman as evidence of improved racial conditions in America.

“Nobody said [America’s history] was all good,” she said. “But it ain’t like it used to be. Can’t we admit that? I’m proof.”

Sears and Miyares also urged voters to turn out for local, officially nonpartisan races, such as elections for sheriffs, boards of supervisors and school boards.

“Even if it’s chief ball catcher, we’re going to get out there and vote, because we’ve seen what happens when you don’t vote,” Sears said.

Miyares encouraged voters to participate in races for the House of Delegates, where Republicans saw gains Tuesday night. 

Gillespie said she detected a lot of voter enthusiasm for Youngkin’s messaging, particularly on education and taxes, which may have contributed to all three statewide candidates’ victories.

“It was really energized,” she said. “Energy is an indication of where the voters are.”