His opponent snatched at Democrat Terry McAuliffe when he said that he didn’t believe parents should tell schools what to teach during the Virginia governor’s debate last Wednesday.
Republican Glenn Youngkin immediately turned the footage into an advertisement and announced that he would spend $1 million to air a commercial statewide claiming that Terry went on the attack on parents. Youngkin’s campaign also created a parent-led group to distribute flyers and circulate petitions rejecting McAuliffe’s disqualifying position, while also scheduling a Wednesday “Parents Matter” rally in Washington’s Washington exurbs.
Youngkin wants to capitalise on the growing number of parents who are vocally against anti-American school curriculums, COVID-19 safety measures, and school board members they feel too liberal and closely linked to teachers unions.
“I’m glad Mr. McAuliffe said it, that more people can understand the truth, and that the Democrat Party wants to control,” said Patti Hidalgo Menders (52-year-old Republican activist, mother of six sons, the youngest of which is in high school), who spoke at a rally held last weekend near Dulles International Airport by Fight for Schools.
Youngkin wants to inspire the GOP-leaning suburban voters that he needs in order to win the Nov. 2. race. If Virginia’s approach is successful, which was once a swing state, Republicans across the country will likely replicate it during the next year’s midterms when control of Congress is at stake.
Macaulay Porter, spokesperson for Youngkin, stated that Glen Youngkin harnesses the energy of frustrated parents who are fed up.
The most active parent activist groups in Virginia claim they are not partisan and do not seek to influence the governor’s election. Instead, they focus on school board elections and recall efforts, particularly in rural areas. Many of these are linked with Republican donors and party-aligned thought tanks. They are often led by people who have worked for the GOP or its candidates.
“The opposing side wants to claim that this is all about helping candidates. Ian Prior, 44 years old, is a former Trump official who founded Fight for Schools to recall five Loudoun County school board members. Prior’s two children are in Loudoun County. Smart candidates are recognizing that this exists. It’s a side effect, politically.
Youngkin was present at a Fight for Schools fundraiser last month. Prior’s group has been asked by Prior to help build crowds for Republican’s campaigns events. It sponsored a rally that attracted about 100 people to the Loudoun County Supervisors Building, Leesburg, to protest “divisive education programs being advanced right here in our backyards.”
Loudoun County is located across the Potomac River to Washington and has a high concentration of people who work as politicians. A recent meeting of the school board resulted in parental shouting matches, as officials discussed teaching equality to all races and determining transgender rights policies.
Federal authorities have been directed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to work with law enforcement to address increasing threats to school board members, teachers, and other officials, citing “a disturbing rise in harassment, intimidation and threats to violence” towards them.
“I was impressed by Youngkin” when he reached out and spoke to parents after seeing how disappointed they were with their school boards,” stated Susan Cox, a Youngkin campaign volunteer from Sterling, Virginia. Susan is a 58-year old dance instructor and Susan Cox attended the Leesburg rally. Her two children both graduated from Loudoun County Public Schools.
Supporters of McAuliffe dismiss the blitz as Youngkin, which is boosting the conservative base but not appealing to suburban swing voters who abandoned GOP in large numbers during last years’s presidential election.
Christina Freundlich, spokesperson for McAuliffe, stated that Youngkin is trying to divide Virginians rather than keeping our children safe under COVID-19.
McAuliffe could still be squeezed if McAuliffe tries to attract Loudoun County residents upset over school issues. This is a low-turnout, off year election. Loudoun County was 420,000 people last year. Joe Biden won 61% of the vote. He won state with a margin of 10 percentage points.
Republicans believe Youngkin can win if he gets 40% of the Greater Washington Area vote. In a county with a growing diversity, complaining about teaching racial awareness may backfire. Only 53% of Loudoun’s residents are white, compared to 69% in 2010.
“Running a Loudoun County race on this issue when there could be a backlash against voters of other races runs the risk being counterproductive,” Mo Elliethee, who was a former campaign advisor to McAuliffe as well as other prominent Virginia Democrats, said.
Many parent groups argue that their movement is multiracial. It grew out of the pandemic driven surge in virtual learning, which allowed parents from all backgrounds to have in-home views about what their children were learning.
Sue Zoldak is the founder of Do Better FCPS. This group focuses on Fairfax County schools. She was a former consultant to Republican National Committee. Her group is not connected to the statewide races. It only has ties to school boards, which are nonpartisan.
Zoldak stated, “It’s funny, the accusation of, ‘Oh well. This is obviously a conservative movement.'” “All the school boards are filled with liberals and that is why we’re the ones who speak up.”
These activism campaigns can receive substantial funding. The Free to Learn Coalition was launched in June with over $1 million in television advertising. It focuses on Fairfax County public schools and Peoria, Arizona private schools, and a New York City school.
These schools are chosen to be representative of urban, suburban, and rural areas as well as the east or west. Free to Learn received feedback from every state within weeks and now has close to 10,000 members, according to its president Alleigh Marre. Alleigh was the special assistant and chief-of-staff to the Air Force secretary under the Trump administration.
The group then followed up with a television ad, which aired during Washington Football Team’s season opening. Loudoun County officials were decried for spending lavishly on a “divisive Curriculum promoted by political activists”. The ad also accused “powerful Education Unions” of using “dirty Political Campaign Techniques to pursue parents.”
Marre, who lives near Virginia with her two children, has said that more ads will soon be placed elsewhere. Her group aims to create “like-minded alliances of parents” in order to “elevate the voices of their children where they cannot be ignored.”
Marre stated that parents who criticize school policies have been subject to sanctions by school districts. Sometimes, neighbors have complained to their employers. Other times, their children’s soccer time has decreased. It is not surprising that the topic was brought up during the gubernatorial debate.
Marre stated, “It is something that is absolutely in everyone’s head.” It definitely gets people fired up.