Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin got a boost Wednesday from Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who joined him on the campaign trail and urged women to “fight back” by voting Republican.
Mrs. Haley, who served in U.N. for President Trump, credited the COVID-19 pandemic with energizing women voters, and she predicted that issues of crime and education will further help drive women to the polls this year in Virginia.
“We’re going to fight back at the ballot box,” Mrs. Haley said at an event in McLean, in Washington’s Northern Virginia suburbs. “They have truly woken up a sleeping giant.”
Mrs. Haley, who also served as the first female governor of South Carolina, touched on issues related to the classroom, including critical race theory in the curriculum, which has been a top issue in Mr. Youngkin‘s campaign.
Mr. Youngkin, who is challenging Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, also used the campaign stop to highlight the exodus of working women, blaming outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s response to the coronavirus pandemic for depleting the workforce.
“This past year and the various decisions that Gov. Northam made in Virginia disproportionately impacted women,” Mr. Youngkin said. “More women had to step out of the workplace. More women had to take care of elderly parents or their children.”
Adding to the women-focused theme was the candidate’s wife, Suzanne Youngkin, who served as the MC for the event.
Both the Youngkin and McAuliffe campaigns have put an emphasis on earning the votes of women, who make up half the electorate, in what is shaping up as a close race.
The McAuliffe campaign has highlighted the need to tackle inequities in the workplace, with a special focus on women of color.
The Democrat is running on the need to advance women’s health care coverage, access to affordable child care, and pay disparities. He is also advocating to pass an amendment on the state Constitution that would permanently codify in state law Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects the right to have an abortion.
At the McLean event, Mr. Youngkin touted that his vision for the state to support women would include giving tax breaks to small businesses, keeping schools fully open, and expanding child care services for veterans reentering civilian society.
The campaign stop also served to boost Mrs. Haley’s profile as she considers a White House run in 2024.
She hammered home Mr. Youngkin‘s jobs message, painting a dire picture for women in a post-COVID economy and stressing the need for mothers to back into the workforce.
“We’re having to take care of our children. We’re having to make sure we’re safe. We’re having to be able to put food on the table,” Mrs. Haley said. “All of that is happening and you’re worried about what the schools are teaching our kids.”
In January 2021, the female workforce participation dropped below 56% in the U.S., the lowest level since 1987, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
From February 2020 to February 2021, more than 2.3 million women dropped out of the labor force, compared to 1.8 million men, the National Women’s Law Center also finds.
The message resonated with Julia Davis of Springfield, who attended the event. She said keeping schools open was an issue in particular that struck her, noting that her two children were only able to return to elementary school part-time this year.
“It was a disastrous situation for them,” said Ms. Davis. “I think it really did impact their enthusiasm for learning.”
Angela Vargas of Fairfax, who said it was her first time going to a Youngkin event, said that she liked the fact that his wife played a prominent role in the campaign.
Miss Vargas, who initially said she was unsure about Mr. Youngkin, said she was sold on him by the interactions of the couple on stage.
“I love the way that he and his wife interact when they were talking about ‘we,’” Miss Vargas said. “There was such a natural back and forth between them.”
Suzanne Youngkin also encouraged women to get involved in campaign events aimed specifically at mobilizing women.
“We are really trying to make this a familial affair,” Mrs. Youngkin said. “It’s about Virginians. It’s not about Republicans at all or Democrats or Independents. It’s about women who are sisters, who are mothers, who are daughters … we welcome you on this journey.”
Mr. Youngkin will face Mr. McAuliffe in the general election in November. Virginia law bars governors from running for consecutive terms, but they can run at a later time.
The race is tight.
A poll conducted between July 7 and 10 by the nonpartisan Trafalgar Group found that Mr. McAuliffe held a 2-point lead over Youngkin, 46.8% to 45%. Roughly 8% of respondents said they were undecided or are opting for a write-in or third-party candidate.
The poll, which surveyed 1,104 people, had a margin of error of 2.87 percentage points.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report currently rates the governor’s race as “lean Democrat.”