Top Dems energize Va. voters to turn out for McAuliffe
Free Press staff, wire reports | 10/21/2021, 5 a.m.
With the clock winding down to Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is calling in the national heavy-hitters to get voters to turn out to the polls.
On Thursday, Oct. 21, Vice President Kamala Harris will campaign with Mr. McAuliffe at an evening event in Prince William County.
And this Saturday, Oct. 23, former President Obama will help energize voters at an appearance with Mr. McAuliffe on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus at the Compass Plaza outside James Branch Cabell Library.
In the last week, Mr. McAuliffe has been joined on the campaign trail by First Lady Jill Biden, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Georgia voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, with Mayor Bottoms and Ms. Abrams speaking to Black church congregations in Richmond and Norfolk to get “souls to the polls.”
Ms. Abrams urged Black churchgoers to turn out for Mr. McAuliffe, saying that what happens in the most watched race this year will “show the world who we are” in future contests with even higher stakes.
Ms. Abrams has become a leading national voice in the Democratic Party since narrowly losing the 2018 race for governor in Georgia. With her appearances at three churches in Norfolk, Ms. Abrams is join- ing other political heavyweights in trying to ensure that a state trending increasingly Democratic in recent years does not flip back to the Republican column on Nov. 2.
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 and a former Democratic National Committee chairman, visited separate churches and later led a rally with Ms. Abrams outside an early voting station.
“We gotta get everybody out to vote,” he said.
His Republican opponent, former business executive Glenn Youngkin, also held a series of events last weekend, including a rally targeting Latino voters in the Washington suburbs.
“I am the daughter of not one, but two pastors,” said Ms. Abrams, who like all attendees entering Second Calvary Baptist Church showed a card indicating that she was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The pastor, the Rev. Geoffrey Guns, wore a black T-shirt emblazoned with “VOTE” and told the congregation that what’s “coming up is a very important election.” He repeated the phrase to louder applause and cries of “Amen.”
In November 2020, President Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points over Donald Trump, but the McAuliffe-Youngkin race appears to be coming down to the wire. To shore up a contest they hope will give them momentum heading into next year’s midterms, when the party’s narrow control of Congress is at stake, national Democrats are turning out in force to stump for Mr. McAuliffe.
Mayor Bottoms visited three Black churches last Sunday – Cedar Street Baptist Church of God in the East End, Saint Paul’s Baptist Church on Creighton Road in Henrico, and Speaking Spirit Ministries on Ravenswood Road near Mechanicsville Turnpike.
Vice President Harris, in a video to be seen at 300 churches statewide for the next two-plus weeks, calls Mr. McAuliffe “the leader Virginia needs at this moment.”
Mr. Youngkin has largely shied away from outside Republican stalwarts, hoping to attract independents disillusioned by President Trump. While Mr. Youngkin also has not campaigned personally with Mr. Trump, the former president phoned into a Virginia rally last week featuring Steve Bannon, a Richmond native and longtime Trump strategist. On Tuesday, a U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol unanimously approved holding Mr. Bannon in contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena to appear before the panel.
Ms. Abrams told the Norfolk congregations that in Mr. McAuliffe’s first term as governor, he increased funding for education and ensured that tens of thousands of former felons and others who had been removed from voter rolls had their right to the ballot box restored.
“I know you get tired of being called a bellwether state but I’m going to tell you — as someone from one of those newly purplish states — we’ve got to look to you for wisdom,” she said, referring to once reliably Republican Georgia backing President Biden and two Democratic senators last cycle.
During a subsequent stop, Ms. Abrams appealed to her audience: “What you say in 2021 will show the world who we are in 2022 and 2024 and beyond.”
At Faith Deliverance Christian Center, where congregants gathered in a gymnasium, Rev. Sharon Riley thanked Ms. Abrams for not being elected Georgia governor because “we now see that God had a plan” and that Ms. Abrams’ work since in defense of voting right shas made her one of the “most significant” people in the nation.
Ms. Abrams said when she first began running for office, she felt mixing politics and church was bad. But, she said, hermothereventuallyreminded her that “politics is always in the church” and her father said that the Bible “is one of the most intense political texts ever written.”
“Voting is an act of faith,” Ms. Abrams said. “I need you to do the job.”