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Virginia Decides: Education, abortion remain key issues ahead of early voting

Early voting in Virginia starts on Sept. 22.

LEESBURG, Va. — Early voting for the general election in November starts on Friday, Sept. 22 in Virginia. 

The race to determine who controls the General Assembly in the Commonwealth is intensifying as key issues including education and abortion are likely continue to dominate campaigns.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is fighting to maintain the House and turn the Senate red. Youngkin has been hosting a series of “Parents Matter” town halls alongside Republican candidates in different Virginia cities.

The events place a huge emphasis on parental rights, social media concerns and learning losses. The topic of parental involvement in schools helped propel Youngkin into office during his campaign in 2021.

His most recent town hall took place in Loudoun County, the nationwide flashpoint of the parental rights movement and trans rights in classrooms. The school district garnered national attention over how it handled two high-profile sexual assaults by the same student in two different schools.

Juan Pablo Segura, the Republican nominee for the 31st District, joined Youngkin this week, and echoed the same sentiment and values about education as the governor. 

“This is the issue and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” said Segura. “We’re going to help the governor pass common sense parents-first legislation.”

Segura said if elected to the Senate, he wants to bring back Sage’s Law, a proposed legislation that failed last session, which would’ve required schools to inform parents if their child identifies as a gender other than their biological sex.

The co-founder of a maternal telehealth company just launched a new commercial that touted being tough on crime. He has gained the support of Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.

Democratic opponent Russet Perry recently launched an ad that called Segura a MAGA Republican. Perry is a former prosecutor and CIA officer using her background to promote more investments in public education and advancing gun safety. Her new ad says “criminalizing abortions is wrong.”

Like most Democratic nominees, Perry vows to protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive health care. She wants better access to contraception and more alternative for women who face unwanted pregnancy.

Youngkin maintains his desire to impose a 15-week abortion ban, with a few exceptions, including rape and incest. Virginia has fewer restrictive abortion laws compared to other states in the South.

“I believe a place that we can come together as Virginians is around a bill recognizing that a child can feel pain at 15 weeks and protect life at 15 weeks,” Youngkin said at his Parents Matter event.

The issues of education and abortion may not be enough to convince voters to cross party lines, but political experts say for any Democratic candidate in a swing district such as District 31, refusing to focus on abortion would be political malpractice.

Dr. Stephen Farnsworth of University of Mary Washington, who moderates debates, said with most voters who are already decided, energizing them to hit the polls is the goal.

“The question is not about how to persuade somebody else but rather but how to make sure people who will vote for you, actually turn out to do so,” said Farnsworth. “It's a time when it isn't likely there will be a lot of turnouts, so, an idea of really creating a fearful environment is going to be a strategy that both parties are going to be using throughout the Fall.”

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