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Who to vote for in Virginia: Here are McAuliffe's, Youngkin's views on COVID-19, the economy, abortion and more

Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin have clashed over voter issues like vaccine mandates, education and how to make Virginia safer.

RICHMOND, Va. — Election day is finally here, and the race for Virginia’s governor is a close one between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

The latest poll from The Wason Center at Christopher Newport University shows a thin margin with McAuliffe in the lead and Youngkin close behind.

There are a lot of issues on the table, so let’s look at their stances on a few major topics.

RELATED: Voting Guide 2021: Important dates, who's on the ballot, and how to vote in Virginia and North Carolina

The COVID-19 pandemic

We are still in the middle of a pandemic that’s claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people in Virginia. Health experts agree vaccines are our best chance to fight the spread and save lives.

McAuliffe supports vaccine mandates. A spokesperson noted he has "called on employers, hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to mandate vaccines for their employees."

Youngkin supports the COVID-19 vaccines, and is vaccinated himself, but doesn’t think they should be required. He said, “...individuals should be allowed to make that decision on their own.”

The economy

As small businesses work to rebound after the pandemic, both candidates have their own plans to boost the economy.

McAuliffe called for more lending programs to help small businesses and said he will recruit large corporations to bring in jobs. A spokesperson said McAuliffe has “the record and experience” in lifting up the state’s economy.

Youngkin also wants to attract jobs and start-up businesses and called for a year-long tax holiday for small businesses with less than $250,000 in net income. "Those businesses deserve a chance to get back on their feet as we come out of this pandemic, because they need to get going," Youngkin said.


Polls show the majority of Americans support legal abortion, but it remains a divisive issue.

McAuliffe is pro-choice and has said he will be a “brick wall” against any legislation that limits abortion.

A spokesperson said McAuliffe will stand "with the overwhelming majority of Virginians who believe that the government should not prevent a woman from making her own healthcare decisions." 

Youngkin is pro-life but said he supports some exemptions.

"I believe in exceptions in the case of rape and incest and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy," Youngkin said.


Education became a lynchpin issue for many Virginian voters this year. Some people are focused on what curriculum schools are teaching children, while other parents and guardians want to know the candidate's positions on in-person versus virtual learning.

Youngkin's campaign website has an education plan for his "Day One" in office. According to that, the Republican wants to ensure schools are safely open five days a week, ban political agendas and critical race theory in the classroom (despite CRT not being taught at Virginia's K-12 level), raise teacher pay and create "at least 20" more charter schools in the commonwealth.

McAuliffe also wants to raise teacher pay, and suggested a program that would pay off the education costs for prospective teachers who sign a contract to teach for five years in Virginia public schools.

His website also puts a focus on expanding pre-Kindergarten opportunities for 3- and 4-year-olds, expanding broadband so students have access to the internet and integrating more STEM and computer science programs with traditional classes.

RELATED: Critical Race Theory: What's the truth and why are we talking about this now?


Both candidates have recognized the issue of gun violence in the commonwealth, but they have different solutions for the problem.

The McAuliffe campaign is putting its focus on making sure people can't get guns if they shouldn't have them. His platform specifies banning the sale of "assault weapons" and fighting the spread of high-capacity magazines and ghost guns. 

McAuliffe also wants to limit open carry, expand background checks and keep guns out of the hands of people who have committed hate crimes.

Youngkin's campaign hasn't laid out as many specific plans for stopping gun violence, but his website does prioritize defending constitutional rights and says "he will defend - not defund - our law enforcement heroes."

He's a proponent of protecting qualified immunity for police officers, and said fixing the mental health system in Virginia would be a priority for making the state safer. His website didn't specify what steps that would take.

In an early October interview, one of Youngkin's spokespeople criticized the crime rates in Virginia when McAuliffe was last governor and the parole board's actions under his administration. 

Youngkin plans to "fire the parole board" if elected.

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