Virginia election timeline: How education became crucial to Republicans’ victory

Virginia Republicans have won a statewide race for the first time in 12 years. At the center of Virginia’s gubernatorial election was a raging debate about critical race theory (CRT) that saw fireworks in one of its most important counties electorally.

Republican Glenn Youngkin beat out former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe at the top of the ticket. Winsome Sears, running to become the first Black female lieutenant governor of Virginia, declared victory, though the Associated Press has not yet called the race. Republican Jason Miyares likewise declared victory in the race for attorney general, though the AP has also not called that race. Sears and Miyares’ Democratic opponents have not yet conceded.

Earlier this year, school board meetings in Loudoun County, Virginia, started capturing national media attention as frustrated parents demanded changes to its so-called "equity" trainings and racially charged materials.

The months leading up to Tuesday’s election saw both major candidates taking starkly different approaches to the issue. And by the end of last month, Youngkin had taken a substantial lead among voters rating education as their top issue. Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting. VIRGINIA’S GOVERNOR’S RACE NOW HINGES ON EDUCATION, AND ONE CANDIDATE HAS A CLEAR EDGE: POLL How did Virginians get here and what role did one of the nation’s wealthiest counties play in upsetting such an important race?

While CRT concerns were percolating as early as the beginning of 2020, the issue catapulted into public consciousness in March with allegations that Loudoun County Public Schools was "canceling" Dr. Seuss. Although the school district didn’t ban his books, it criticized purported "racial undertones."

That particular issue was highlighted by Scott Mineo, a Loudoun father who started the group Parents Against Critical Theory and helped lead the charge against CRT. That same month, Fairfax mom Asra Nomani co-founded an organization that would later help expose a potential conflict of interest when the federal government started seriously weighing in on the CRT debate. Her son previously attended Thomas Jefferson High School, where she and other parents also challenged a purportedly anti-Asian admissions scheme. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe prepares to speak at an election night party in McLean, Virginia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Shortly after uproar over Seuss, Loudoun denied it was teaching CRT and then-acting Superintendent Scott Ziegler defended its equity programs as fostering an "inclusive environment."

Around this time, the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) began encountering significant pushback over alleged attempts to water down educational standards. Loudoun school board member Ian Serotkin sounded the alarm on the DOE considering a plan to eliminate accelerated math courses prior to 11th grade. Also in April, teachers began getting more attention for their anti-CRT advocacy and the DOE attracted attention for another controversial effort to end advanced diplomas in the state.


Parents like Mineo had already started fighting back and redoubled their efforts as the debate progressed. Ian Prior, a Loudoun parent and […]

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