LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. - With Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin now the clear winner of the gubernatorial contest in Virginia, Democrats – long used to winning in the Commonwealth – are left to wonder what happened.
Both sides are examining Loudoun County, where the culture war surrounding the school board took the national spotlight.
But did that make the difference for Youngkin? Or did something else lead to his win?
Many Republicans think it did. GOPers took to Twitter Wednesday morning to thank the Loudoun County School Board for being responsible for Youngkin winning the governor’s mansion.
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan Tweeted congratulations to the parents of Loudoun County.
However, correlation doesn’t always equal causation – and there are several elements in play.
Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe won Loudoun County with 54 percent of the vote – compared to Glenn Youngkin’s 44 percent. But Youngkin improved seven percentage points from Trump’s 37 just last year.
Similar incremental improvements made the difference for Youngkin across the state. Loudoun County residents disagree on what gave the GOP a lift locally.
"I think the rest of Virginia was watching what we were doing and that really helped him over the finish line. Youngkin really spoke to parents, he listened to parents. And he was able to hold onto his base but really win over independents. And I would assume he won over some moderate Democrats as well," said Ian Prior of Fight for Schools.
In the final days of the campaign, as the race tightened, education and the litany of issues that come with it – racism, parent involvement, student safety, protection for LGBTQ students, teacher pay and mask mandates – became the number one issue for voters.
But that was a factor for both sides – Democratic and Republican voters.
"The county did not change. By and large Democrats won every delegate office except for one, which has been held by a Republican for years. I think the shift we saw last night, it doesn't reflect a change in Loudoun County. The parents on the ground know that what they've been told isn't true. It's not what they see in their schools. It's not what they see in their education system or their teachers," said Cris Candice Tuck of Equality Loudoun.
The numbers suggest the result can’t simply be chalked up to education and the school board.
McAuliffe won the county by 10 points this year. When he won the governor’s mansion back in 2013, he only garnered four percentage points.
However, outgoing Governor Ralph Northam won Loudoun by 19 percent. He’s also down compared to Biden’s performance in the 2020 election. The president took Loudoun by 61 percentage points.
A number of people in Loudoun County said they wish there was a different Democrat on the ballot – rather than a former governor.