Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who joined his Georgia counterpart and fellow Republican Brian Kemp at a campaign rally outside of Atlanta on Sept. 26, reminded the crowd that the Georgia election revolves around the same issues as his fueled their own disgruntled win over the past year.
But the two states’ respective experiences over the past year have been very different, the Virginia Republican told about 400 people who gathered at the Town Green Fountain, a park in scenic downtown Alpharetta, a suburb north of Atlanta.
And the reason, Youngkin said, is the bold course Kemp took during the pandemic.
“Let me take you all on a little walk in time,” Youngkin said. “You see, not more than two years ago in Virginia we were tightly locked. We had a Democratic governor for eight years—eight years. We were locked down, shut down in the middle of the pandemic, and you didn’t have that because you had Brian Kemp.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (red vest) speaks to a voter while campaigning for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s re-election September 27, 2022 in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Dan M. Berger/The Epoch Times)
“There were small businesses in Bristol, Virginia that were closed. And we had stores across the street in Bristol, Tennessee that were wide open. We saw small shops closed day and night. You didn’t have that because you had Brian Kemp.”
“We’ve seen crime increase in all of our neighborhoods because we’ve seen law enforcement resources drained. You didn’t have that because you had Brian Kemp.”
“We have seen children locked out of their schools, which only reopened full time in September 2021. We were told that our children’s education on a 12 inch screen was a quality education. You didn’t have that because you had Brian Kemp.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is standing for re-election with his wife Marty, far left, and other family members on September 27, 2022 in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Dan M. Berger/The Epoch Times)
“So the Virginians stood up and said, ‘Enough.’ The teachers said, ‘Enough.’ Law enforcement said, “Enough.” Incidentally, the Latino community, the Asian community, and the Black community who had never voted Republican before said, “Enough.” It was a wake up call in Virginia.”
In Virginia’s first statewide Republican victory in 12 years, Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe, a former governor and confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton, by 2 percentage points. School policy towards parents became an important issue: whether they should be made aware of the use of sexually explicit materials in the classroom.
During a debate, Youngkin noted that during his tenure McAuliffe had vetoed a bill that would have required parental consent on the issue. McAuliffe replied, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.” Polls later confirmed that this was a major factor in Youngkin’s victory.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigns with Kemp and his family for re-election of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on September 27, 2022 in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Dan M. Berger/The Epoch Times)
The opposition of Virginia parents and the victory of Youngkin crystallized the issue of parental rights nationally. Kemp and other Republican candidates nailed it in their speeches, and there have been attempts by conservative school board candidates across the country to restore parental control over school education policy on this and other controversial issues.
Youngkin got the crowd laughing as he recounted how Kemp’s Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, came to Virginia to campaign for his opponent.
“And speaking to very small crowds, she actually said the biggest fear Virginia has is that if they vote for me, we’ll become more like Georgia. I said, “Thanks, Stacey.”
“I am proud to say that our economy is open, our economy has grown, our children are back in school and we are giving taxpayers’ money back to them. Virginians are competing madly with Georgia for development and I am proud to say that we are very similar to Georgia.”
Kemp, delivering his stump speech to a crowd in the tech-heavy suburb 15 miles north of the city, reminded them of what he had been doing during the pandemic. This included quickly reopening businesses and schools, and supporting law enforcement when it came under attack from many quarters during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
And he reminded them of the criticism he had received for it from many sectors nationally, including Abrams.
He reminded them of the billion-dollar rebate he ordered for taxpayers out of a $5 billion federal surplus. He said he would do it again if re-elected and also waived a one-time property tax break subsidy of between 15 and 25 percent of what homeowners owed to ease the burden of inflated property values.
He told them that unlike Abrams and the Democrats, he would not use the surplus to “build big government programs. Because when the money runs out, do you know how they will pay it in the future? Raise your taxes.”
Randy Gonano, a 59-year-old IT consultant who lives in Alpharetta, came to the event with his friend Chris Ziegler, 57, a lawyer.
“I support Kemp and his messages. He supports the military and I support the military. Besides, he did a pretty good job,” said Gonano. “He took care of himself. He knows how surgeries work. Transitioning now would not be best.
“He has a pretty good track record and there have been a lot of obstacles – Covid, immigration, economic issues. There was a $5 billion surplus, and it was giving back to the people. That was a nice touch. I’ve never seen that before.”
Ziegler said of the two governors, “I support both and wanted to see what they had to say.”
Rob Lett, a Kemp reelection volunteer from Marietta, Georgia, emerges to support Kemp at a rally in Alpharetta on September 27, 2022. (Dan M. Berger/The Epoch Times)
“I want to extend my support to the governor,” said Rob Lett, 53, of Marietta, a Kemp volunteer who is also a professional public speaker. “There are some really important things that we have to make decisions about. These are really critical times. People have to make a choice about what freedom really means.”
Johnna Maddox, a 59-year-old technical adviser to Alpharetta, said she was there because “I’m sick of inflation, sick of being told what to think and sick of my taxes going up In addition to a Kemp sticker, she wore a sticker for Rich McCormick, the Republican nominee for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, who was speaking before the two governors.
“He’s family-oriented and he’s fought for my defense,” Maddox said of McCormick, a Navy pilot who returned to Afghanistan after completing medical school to become a military doctor. “He works in one of the toughest areas, the emergency rooms, and hospital funding is declining.”
McCormick’s speech succinctly summarized the issue that Youngkin raised and with which Kemp, McCormick and many other Republicans agree.
“I’m not interested,” McCormick said, “in co-parenting with the government.”