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Youngkin 'disappointed' with Democratic wins

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin addresses reporters at his first briefing following Republican losses in the 2023 legislative election.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin addresses reporters at his first briefing following Republican losses in the 2023 legislative election.

Governor Glenn Youngkin said he wasn’t running for President of the United States, and that his fight over abortion limits was far from over at his first post-election news conference following Republicans' loss of the Virginia House and Senate Tuesday night.

“I’m a little disappointed and I think that’s just a natural reality,” Youngkin admitted.

As for his hopes for the White House, Youngkin answered reporters' questions the same he has for months: “I’m focused on Virginia. My name is not on the ballot in New Hampshire, I’m not in Iowa, I’m not in South Carolina, and I look forward to being focused on Virginia, like I have.”

And while that statement sounded like a dodge for months as conservative heavyweights pushed for Youngkin to enter the White House race, any such run depended on significantly more success Tuesday night.

Abortion, meanwhile, was also still on the governor’s mind. He campaigned on a 15-week ban but the idea fell on deaf ears as Democrats swept both chambers. Still, he said he hoped to address new limits with his future Democratic counterparts.

“Abortion is potentially one of the most difficult topics in Virginia and across the nation,” he said. “And my hope is, continues to be, we can find a way to come together as Virginians and lead.”

And while the Democrats are on track to have a majority in both chambers, Youngkin stressed final numbers will show the race margins were tight, in line with Virginia’s history as a purple state. He said that purple state history also comes with moments of bipartisanship, and he hopes he can come to a consensus with the new Democratic legislature on areas where they have before like “addressing the cost of living, jobs, educational excellence and mental health services.”

“In order to move forward on all of these topics we’ve had to bring together democrats and republicans, and we’ve had to bring together a house and a senate, and a general assembly and a governor in order to move forward,” he said.

But Youngkin did not address the numerous local elections which saw Democrats take control of school boards in areas like Henrico, Spotsylvania, and even Montgomery County. All are traditional GOP strongholds which had made headlines following dramatic local meetings over book bans and anti-LGBTQ policies.

Virginia Democratic Party head Susan Swecker, who was also at the capitol steps, said these local elections showed Virginians aren’t interested in a more conservative agenda from the Governor’s mansion on down. She called it a “clear repudiation” of things like book bans and school policies the governor wrote which advocates say will hurt LGBTQ youth.

“This is very inspiring and uplifting and it shows once again that Virginia voters are paying attention,” Swecker said.

Youngkin said he hadn’t yet heard from future Democrat leadership and that he was waiting for those roles to be decided by the respective chambers before reaching out. He added that he looked forward to working with them when the 2024 legislative session starts in January.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.