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13News Now Vault: The closest race for Virginia governor was in 1989

Democrat Doug Wilder defeated Republican Marshall Coleman in one of the tightest elections in Virginia history.
Credit: 13News Now

NORFOLK, Va. — The year was 1989.

13News Now reporter Mike Gooding’s assignment was very similar to things he's had to tackle this November election.

It was the last time the race for Virginia Governor was an (almost) even split.

Both candidates, Democrat Doug Wilder and Republican Marshall Coleman poured money into television ads in what would end up being one of the tightest elections in Virginia history.

Wilder would go on to win and become the first Black governor in the United States. He won with 50.1% of the vote, to Coleman's 49.8%.

The gubernatorial race came down to about 6,000 votes.

The 2021 race for governor could be just as close, but when it comes to the issues, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glen Youngkin have a different approach than the candidates in the election of 1989.

Back then, taking a neutral approach was a popular strategy on most major issues, according to political experts at the time.

Today’s political landscape is a lot different, with both candidates for Virginia governor confronting issues head-on, from education to vaccines and abortion.

“I believe a woman should make a decision about her own reproductive rights,” said McAuliffe.

“I’m pro-life,” said Youngkin. “I’ve said it from the beginning of this campaign.”

We’ll know Tuesday just how tight the race really is, and if it will hold a new place in Virginia election history.