Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D) conceded the gubernatorial race to Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday, nearly 12 hours after the race was first projected to go to Youngkin. 

“While last night we came up short, I am proud that we spent this campaign fighting for the values we so deeply believe in,” McAuliffe in a statement released Wednesday morning. 

“We must protect Virginia’s great public schools and invest in our students. We must protect affordable health care coverage, raise the minimum wage faster, and expand paid leave so working families have a fighting shot,” he said. McAuliffe emphasized the need to “protect a woman’s right to choose” as well as voting rights.

The first outlet to call the race for Youngkin, a pro-life Republican, was Decision Desk HQ, which projected the outcome Tuesday night, about 90 minutes after the polls closed. McAuliffe declined to concede on Tuesday evening, tweeting, “Folks, not everything is counted and we’re still waiting for a lot of votes to come in. And we want to ensure every Virginians’ voice is heard.” 

The Associated Press and other news outlets called the race for Youngkin around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Youngkin is the first Republican to win a statewide election in Virginia since 2009. 

Republicans also regained control of Virginia’s House of Delegates, and swept the other two statewide races. Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares are both projected to be the next lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively. You can watch Youngkin's victory speech in the video below.

In another closely watched race, New Jersey incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) maintained a slight lead early Wednesday over Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in his bid for a second, four-year term.

Youngkin, a businessman making his first foray into running for office, is the first Republican to be elected governor in Virginia in over a decade. 

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McAuliffe previously served as governor of Virginia from 2014 until 2018. Virginia law prohibits consecutive gubernatorial terms, but a former governor may run again for a second non-consecutive term. 

The race focused largely on social issues, namely critical race theory, abortion, and coronavirus mitigation strategies in schools. Virginia’s public schools were among the last in the country to re-open to in-person learning following the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

McAuliffe, who described himself as a “brick wall” in favor of abortion rights, made abortion a central part of his campaign after Texas enacted a law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. 

In a letter issued Sept. 17, Youngkin outlined his pro-life agenda and slammed his opponent for his support of taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.

“As the next Governor of Virginia, I will proudly stand up for the unborn and their mothers. I believe life begins at conception. My views are formed not only by my faith, but by science as well,” Youngkin said in the letter.  

“Instead of working to expand late-term abortion in Virginia, I’ll proudly advocate to limit abortions when the unborn child can feel pain. The United States is one of just seven countries around the globe – in the company of China and North Korea – to allow late abortions when the child can feel pain. That’s why over 20 states have enacted Pain-Capable limits to stop late abortions. I’ll work tirelessly to add Virginia to the list,” the letter continued.    

Youngkin also vowed to “work vigorously to stop our tax dollars from funding abortions.” 

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