Saturday, January 15 marks the inauguration of Glenn Youngkin as the 74th Governor of Virginia. In just over a year, Youngkin went from co-CEO of The Carlyle Group to governor-elect after defeating Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 gubernatorial election. Get to know the new leader of the Commonwealth before he kicks off his four-year term in office.
Who is this tall guy living in the Virginia Executive Mansion in Richmond?
That would be former Great Falls resident Gov. Glenn Allen Youngkin (R), who, at a disputed 6-foot-7, is not only the tallest Virginia chief executive, but also taller than every president, even Lincoln.
How did such a political newbie get to be governor?
By receiving 63,480 votes more than the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe. In a sequence of events that has every gazillionaire’s head spinning: in July of 2020, Youngkin, 56, stepped down from his post as co-CEO of famed private equity firm The Carlyle Group; in late January 2021, he announced an effort to make a first-ever run at political office; in November 2021, he was declared governor-elect.
Did anyone run against him in the primary?
Boy, did they ever. There were six of them by the end, and for the longest time, Youngkin’s relative anonymity and low-key demeanor cast him as a long shot for candidate, despite spending $5.5 million of his own money in the primary. Virginia’s Republican leadership, in an effort to prevent extremist firebrand candidates from winning, declared the nomination convention would be “ranked-choice.” The last candidate in each round of balloting was eliminated until there was only one standing. Youngkin might not have been first until the end, but he never came in last.
Why was the rest of the country so interested in this election?
For one, it was one of the only statewide runoffs in the country in this non-presidential, non-midterm election cycle, making it a bellwether event. For another, it was the first major balloting after the chaotic 2020 election that saw Joe Biden come to office. All eyes were on the effectiveness of the theory known as “the Trump Effect,” in which the candidate who most aligns with the former president wins—or doesn’t.
How did Youngkin avoid the Trump Effect?
Youngkin, who grew up in Virginia Beach, was praised far and wide after the election for his delicate dance around Trump’s unrequested endorsement and his grudging acceptance by far-right acolytes. He touched on their hot buttons anyway: He complained about “election integrity” early on before agreeing that Biden was indeed elected president; he avoided specifics on abortion; and he promised critical race theory would not be taught in schools, although it’s not part of Virginia’s K-12 curriculum.
Has Youngkin made any promises he can’t keep?
Maybe at first. His fellow statewide leaders, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares, are Republican, as are seven new delegates. That gives the Rs some top-heavy executive powers and the House majority over the Ds, 52–48. But the Senate is still 21–19 to the Ds.
Why did Youngkin want to be governor so badly?
That’s the $20 million question, the amount of his own money Youngkin sank into a campaign that eventually cost $64.5 million, a record. (The Youngkins won’t miss a car payment: He’s worth some $300 million.) He ran on a campaign to cut taxes, create jobs, improve education, and make government more effective, but who doesn’t? He’s on record as saying Virginia is in a tailspin and headed for an economic ditch despite inheriting a pandemic-be-damned, humming economy with more than $2 billion in surplus and a AAA bond rating on Wall Street. He’s got four years to do something. Let’s hope it’s for the best.
This story originally ran in our February issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.