November 2, voters face starkly different choices on whom is best qualified to lead Virginia. The outcome has significant implications for Virginia and nationally. Based on key priorities, opportunities and challenges, it is abundantly clear Terry McAuliffe and Democratic leadership are best qualified to continue the success Virginia experienced over the past 8 years. Top issues for voters include: the economy and jobs; the pandemic; health care; taxes; and education. On each, Democratic leadership and McAuliffe are undisputedly proven leaders.
Jobs and the economy: Virginia ranks in the top third of states on unemployment rates at 4%. Nationally, 10 states report levels below 3.5% and 10 states, including Virginia, have rates between 3.6% and 4.2%. The McAuliffe and Northam administrations brought thousands of jobs/businesses, including Amazon, CoStar, Nestle and many more. Virginia has been voted the best state for business two consecutive years and five times overall — top among all states. It posted record volume/growth with Port volume, attracted major investments in offshore wind-powered electricity (top among East Coast states), and improved highway and rail transportation.
Pandemic: Virginia is the absolute leader in vaccination rates among 14 Southern states and among the top nationally: 62% fully vaccinated. It is four points higher than the closest, Florida. Northam and McAuliffe are strong advocates of vaccination and mask requirements, embracing both science and the importance of reducing the incidence of Covid to minimize deaths/illness, ensure the availability of our state’s health care systems, and promote economic recovery/growth.
Health care: McAuliffe and Northam advocated strongly for Medicaid expansion, providing coverage to over 500,000 uninsured Virginians, and a critical safety net for thousands who lost coverage during the pandemic. Republicans continually opposed expansion.
Taxes and education: Everyone would love to pay no taxes; however, taxes support a range of economic, educational, environmental, public safety, and health priorities. McAuliffe proposes major investments in public education and teacher salaries to position Virginia as a preferred destination for educators and to make our schools top nationally. Admittedly, McAuliffe made a debate gaffe in addressing parental involvement in education, however, he supports parental involvement through school boards/committees, local funding, etc. His opponent has focused on banning Critical Race Theory-something not in Virginia curriculum.
Contrast these accomplishments with Youngkin, who espouses concerns on election integrity, notwithstanding that Virginia election officials and the former president’s senior election security advisor advised of no fraud. Youngkin did not oppose a rally — the organizers of which he thanked — in Richmond where participants pledged allegiance to an American flag flown at the Jan. 6 insurrection, featured Stephen Bannon, presently defying legal Congressional subpoenas, and welcomes the support of Amanda Chase — an outlier in her own party for racist and conspiracy comments. Youngkin proposes tax cuts that, if implemented, would result in “de facto” defunding of police, public safety and education. He seeks to nurture and attract the former president’s voter base while distancing himself from controversial issues basic to this base. He is a chameleon and non-transparent on matters of importance. Explore the candidates’ positions on voter rights, and a woman’s right to choose.
The best choice is obvious — vote for Terry McAuliffe for a bright future for Virginia.
Mark H. Merrill is a resident of Winchester.