Republicans Take Over Virginia
Elections have consequences: Old Dominion Edition
Last November 2, Republicans swept Virginia‘s off-off-off year elections, with Glenn Younkin winning the governorship, Winsome Sears elected lieutenant governor, Jason Miyares elected attorney general, and retaking the House of Delegates.* They were all sworn in yesterday morning.
They did not waste any time enacting their mandates into law.
NBC 12 (“Gov. Youngkin signs 11 executive actions on first day of administration“):
Just hours after becoming Virginia’s 74th governor, Glenn Youngkin followed through on his promise to sign a slew of executive actions.
•Executive Order Number One delivers on his Day One promise to restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.
•Executive Order Number Two delivers on his Day One promise to empower Virginia parents in their children’s education and upbringing by allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school.
•Executive Order Number Three delivers on his Day One promise to restore integrity and confidence in the Parole Board of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
•Executive Order Number Four delivers on his Day One promise to investigate wrongdoing in Loudoun County.
•Executive Order Number Five delivers on his Day One promise to make government work for Virginians by creating the Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer.
•Executive Order Number Six delivers on his Day One promise to declare Virginia open for business.
•Executive Order Number Seven delivers on his Day One promise to combat and prevent human trafficking and provide support to survivors.
•Executive Order Number Eight delivers on his Day One promise to establish a commission to combat antisemitism.
•Executive Order Number Nine delivers on his Day One promise to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
•Executive Directive Number One delivers on his fulfilling his Day One promise to jumpstart our economy by cutting job-killing regulations by 25 percent.
•Executive Directive Number Two delivers on his fulfilling his Day One promise to restore individual freedoms and personal privacy by rescinding the vaccine mandate for all state employees.
Richmond Times-Dispatch (“Miyares fires 30 in AG’s office, including lawyer investigating dangerous conditions at Richmond apartments“):
Virginia’s newly sworn-in Attorney General Jason Miyares announced investigations into the Virginia Parole Board and Loudoun County Public Schools within hours of taking office.
In a statement released on Saturday just hours after Miyares and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin were sworn in, Miyares explained why he has launched an investigation into the commonwealth’s parole board as well as Loudoun County Public Schools.
“One of the reasons Virginians get so fed up with government is the lack of transparency – and that’s a big issue here,” Miyares wrote. “The Virginia Parole Board broke the law when they let out murders, rapists, and cop killers early on their sentences without notifying the victims. Loudoun Country Public Schools covered up a sexual assault on school grounds for political gain, leading to an additional assault of a young girl.”
Loudoun County became a focal point in Youngkin’s gubernatorial race against former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe following the arrest of a 14-year-old male high school student, who identifies as nonbinary, who has been found guilty of raping a female student in a school bathroom. That student was transferred to another school where he allegedly raped another student and the district has been accused of covering up the crime which resulted in one of the alleged victim’s parents being arrested at a school board meeting. The offending student has been placed on the sex offenders registry for life as part of his sentence.
In addition to the investigations, Miyares notified about 30 staff members that they will no longer be employed by the office of the attorney general. Virginia State Senator Louise Lucas tweeted that Miyares fired the “entire” civil rights division, which Miyares’s office tells Fox News is not accurate.
“This is incorrect information,” Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said. “There are 12 individuals who work in the Office of Civil Rights – only two personnel changes were made.”
“During the campaign, it was made clear that now Attorney General-elect Miyares and Attorney General Herring have very different visions for the office,” LaCivita told Richmond.com. “We are restructuring the office, as every incoming AG has done in the past.”
On the one hand, this is democracy in action. Virginians voted for Republicans to take over all of the levers of the Commonwealth’s government which had been held by Democrats and they swiftly did exactly what they promised they would do. On the other, as Steven Taylor has noted many times in general terms and I have with regard to the state where I’ve now lived for almost two decades, the results of a relatively low-turnout election held in a year with no Presidential or Congressional offices at stake likely does not best represent the views of the citizens of Virginia.** The larger electorate, after all, has voted Democratic for the last four Presidential cycles and for two Democratic Senators.
Second, while I have yet to dig into the specifics of Youngkin’s executive orders, I’m amused by the degree to which multiple news outlets simply engaged in stenography in reporting on them, literally describing them just as Youngkin’s propaganda did. So, for example, while I have mixed views on the issue of teaching CRT*** in schools, I am one hundred percent sure that Youngkin did not manage to “restore excellence in education” across the Commonwealth with the stroke of a pen.
Third, while I have paid only passing attention to the various controversies embroiling neighboring Loudoun County (where I lived from 2002-2005) I’m more than a little leery of the obvious politicization of the legal system inherent in the Governor and AG ordering investigations on Day 1 pursuant to campaign promises.
The only issue impacted by the orders above that I’ve given a lot of thought to is the masking and other anti-COVID measures taken by the local schools. Two months ago, I would have roundly been on Youngkin’s side: the restrictions were absurd, often based on long-disproven assumptions made in the early weeks of the disease’s spread. Masking is particularly problematic for my youngest daughter, who wears hearing aids and relies more than most on facial expressions to understand speech. But declaring a free-for-all during a peak transmission period of a variant that has a high breakthrough rate seems unwise and, certainly, not something that should be done willy-nilly based on campaign promises made under very different circumstances.
*In the original version of the post, I incorrectly stated that the Republicans took both Houses. But commenter Kylopod reminded me that the Senate is not up for election until 2023.
**The fact that the Senate is elected in yet another off-off-off year contest exacerbates this.
***Based on my limited understanding of CRT, I’m persuaded that it’s mostly valuable. To the extent it’s being taught in primary and secondary schools, though, it’s mostly of the bastardized forms popularized by hacks like Robin DiAngelo. Further, I’m highly skeptical of the ability of most schoolteachers to present the material in a sufficiently nuanced manner.