Terry McAuliffe, the energetic former Virginia governor and longtime fixture of Democratic politics, won the party’s nomination Tuesday in his quest for a second term in office, the AP reports. McAuliffe, 64, will go on to face GOP nominee and political newcomer Glenn Youngkin in the November general election, when Republicans will be looking to break their more than decade-long losing streak in statewide races. “Folks, we launched this campaign about six months ago on the simple idea that Virginia has some very big challenges ahead," McAuliffe said in a speech Tuesday night. “And I've said, we've got to go big, we've got to be bold, and we need seasoned leadership to move us forward and to lift up all Virginians." Youngkin, a former executive at an investment fund who has pledged to use his personal wealth to power his campaign, has been endorsed by Donald Trump, NPR reports.
Virginia is the only state in the nation with an open race for governor this year, and the contest is expected to be closely watched as a barometer of voter sentiment in each party heading into the midterm elections. The race has also taken on heightened importance as Democrats aim to hold onto power after assuming full control of state government in 2020. Since then they have pushed through sweeping changes, from gun control and police reform to marijuana legalization and a higher minimum wage, transforming what was once a reliably red state into an outlier in the South. A longtime Democratic Party fundraiser and a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe held office from 2014 to 2018. Like all Virginia governors, he was prohibited from seeking a consecutive term. He jumped into the race in December after deciding in 2019 against a run for president. If he wins, he'd be the first person in decades to serve multiple terms as governor in the commonwealth, CNN reports. (In New Jersey, Jack Ciattarelli won the GOP primary Tuesday and will take on Gov. Phil Murphy.)