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 Orders:

•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 Directives:

•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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2022, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Justin Hobbs says:

    My brother lives in northern Virginia. So his take was that CRT was a wedge issue with suburban voters that were upset that their ancestors could do such horrible things to a group of people. We looked at our family tree and see slavers and slave owners and laugh at them. There’s more to it than that. But the GOP has four years to run the state in the ground before getting replaced by democrats as is the usual cycle.

    8
  2. Paine says:

    You get what you vote for (or don’t vote for if you can’t be bothered). At this point it should be common knowledge that this is the sort of nonsense you get from Republicans regardless of what they say on the stump. Enjoy the next four years, Virginia.

    4
  3. Michael Cain says:

    Based on local experience, the crisis in education will come when they decide to take on AP American History. The Republicans will insist that AP American History conform by taking certain things out of the syllabus; the AP folks will say no, and withdraw the AP label; a bunch of parents will figure out that means one less AP credit on their kids’ college applications and that they will be on the hook for an additional three hours of college tuition.

    I live in a recall state. Once the parents realized what was happening, the petitions were drawn up and they set up tables outside the local libraries. At one point the line of people waiting to sign the petition at the library near where I lived was a block long. They had enough signatures in less than a week and the board members were recalled by an overwhelming margin.

    I understand that the decisions in Virginia are being made at higher than local boards, and that Virginia lacks the safety valve of recalls. I wonder if the Republicans realize that fooling with AP American History will be, at least in critical suburban areas, a third rail?

    6
  4. Joe says:

    his Day One promise to jumpstart our economy by cutting job-killing regulations by 25 percent.

    Per your comment about just reporting the propaganda, I have questions about this goal. Why wouldn’t he cut all of the “job-killing” regulations? Why would you leave 75% of them in place? If it’s just assumed that all regulations are “job-killing” (even the ones industry asks for), what’s the actual strategy here? Are you just going to go through the books and strike every 4th regulation and call it a win?

    6
  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    …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

    True, but it again points out that Dems have a huge problem with their partisans lack of participation if off year elections and failure to take elections of non-Federal offices seriously. Democratic voters don’t show up for off year elections and frequently ignore state, county and city races even in presidential years. A far greater percentage of R voters show for these races and a larger number fully complete their ballot.

    2
  6. Jax says:

    I hear the State of Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction has accepted a job offer from Youngkin, so she’s moving to Virginia to supervise schools there. It’s a little odd, since her position here in Wyoming is an elected one. She ran unopposed in 2018.

    1
  7. Mikey says:

    @Joe:

    Are you just going to go through the books and strike every 4th regulation and call it a win?

    They’ll just figure out which 25% offer the most protections to workers and get rid of those.

    2
  8. steve says:

    What’s a Chief Transformation Officer?

    Steve

  9. wr says:

    We’re restoring excellence in education by mandating that all students learn that slavery was good for Blacks, who were too lazy and shiftless to make it on their own, and that the slaveholders loved them more than their own children!

    2
  10. wr says:

    @steve: “What’s a Chief Transformation Officer?”

    The person in charge of transforming public resources into private wealth.

    11
  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @steve:

    What’s a Chief Transformation Officer?

    They’re in charge of “transforming” the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Comission

    So I’m guessing their actual job is to make it harder for minorities to get IDs and unemployment benefits.

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  12. TJ says:

    @Mikey:

    Basically.

  13. Kathy says:

    @Joe:

    Because then he can claim credit if/when the Biden economy delivers growth. All for minimum effort.

  14. Mikey says:

    @Jax: Nothing against Wyoming, I hear it’s lovely, but there are three times as many students in Virginia schools as there are people in all of Wyoming. Jillian Balow is probably aiming for even higher positions and running Virginia’s schools is a pretty big step up.

    I don’t know much about Balow, but Youngkin’s pick for assistant superintendent is a full-on far-right nutcase, a rabid anti-LGBT bigot who went on fascist Sebastian Gorka’s show to “both sides” the Holocaust.

    1
  15. Jax says:

    @Mikey: I got the distinct impression she’s aiming for something higher, politically. Her “farewell announcement” was all full of Trumpian buzzwords. I’d say good riddance to bad rubbish, but given that it’s Wyoming, whoever her replacement will be will be exactly the same kind of right wing robot.

  16. @Sleeping Dog: I would note, as I did in a couple of posts at the time, is that the electoral calendar issue isn’t just a D thing–Rs have behaved similarly as Ds in terms of turnout in the gov elections.

    As a general principle, off-term elections do not produce as robust a representative outcome as is the case in presidential years.

  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yes, overall, voting is down in off year elections, but it does seem to be a larger problem for the Dems. We would be better off if all elective offices coincided with a presidential year, but we do have the issue of term lengths for Congress and the varied terms and election dates for state offices.

  18. Matt Bernius says:

    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.”

    I’m glad to hear that was a misreporting. That said, the news that the AG fired the entire Convictions Integrity Unit (charged with reviewing past convictions to ensure they were reached fairly) isn’t filling me with a lot of hope.

    The unit was about a year old. These are becoming more common in AG offices and had already done some good work. See for example: https://www.wavy.com/news/local-news/portsmouth/virginia-governor-pardons-man-convicted-in-2002-portsmouth-killing/

    Time will tell if the unit will be reformed with different folks. But if it isn’t that definitely signals a major change in policy–sadly back in a “tough on crime at all costs” direction.

  19. TJ says:

    @Jax: great, and here she’ll come and get to toy with one of the largest public school districts in the country and two of the “public ivies”

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    •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 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.

    Luckily for Youngkin, he doesn’t have to run for reelection based on how well his actions worked for the citizens. And I suppose that since most of the people who are affected by ED #2 can’t get unvaccinated (although I do see a potential scam available there), the impact of that change will be fairly low.

    Meanwhile, I just got off the phone with my brother in Williamsburg and he was explaining that the information he’s seen recently indicates that people who actually got sick with Covid have better immunity than people who got vaccinated and that he knows two restaurant workers who got vaccinated and contracted Covid anyway, so there’s that anecdote in support of the new regime. (He never tells me how many restaurant workers he knows who didn’t get vaccinated and got Covid for some reason. I guess they’re not noteworthy.)

  21. Kylopod says:

    and retaking both houses of the state legislature

    No–they only retook the House of Delegates. The Senate isn’t up till 2023.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: I’ve only lived here 20 years and somehow never picked up on electing the Senate in yet a different election held at the worst possible time.

  23. Jay L Gischer says:

    The thing I wonder about, as regards “Critical Race Theory” is whether they bother to define it? I mean, in terms of its origin, I’m sure it isn’t being taught in schools. It was a ghost, a scary story, not a reality.

    So maybe you do a big flashy executive order, and jawbone it to death, and otherwise nothing happens?

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “So maybe you do a big flashy executive order, and jawbone it to death, and otherwise nothing happens?”

    Yes. Exactly. And CRT is the perfect item for such an approach because it’s a phantom to begin with.

  25. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: And BECAUSE it’s a phantom to begin with, they can still declare victory over it.

  26. Jc says:

    Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer….sounds like something out of “Office Space”. Of course Youngkin is Bill Lumbergh…”hope your firings go well”

  27. Jc says:

    CRT law…lol. May as well make another law protecting Bigfoot as an endangered species. I swear I saw CRT, I swear! Sheesh

  28. Ken_L says:

    I assume national Republican Party leaders (plus senators Manchin and Senigma) have expressed their disgust with these sudden reversals of policy, and called for Virginia to introduce a supermajority requirement for legislation.

  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: You’ve probably pointed out that even if someone who has experienced COVID does end up with stronger immunisation than one who simply gets vaccinated, this is totally irrelevant to the original reason why one gets vaccinated: to reduce the risk of catching the illness in the first place.

    The problem with COVID has been the inability to predict the severity with which people will be afflicted. We have too many examples of vigorous and healthy people who would be expected otherwise to throw off a similar infection to cascade downhill and die within a few weeks.