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PolitiFact VA: President Joe Biden wrong about partisan shifts in Virginia gubernatorial races

man talking
FILE PHOTO President Joe Biden speaks about the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the State Dinning Room of the White House, on Nov. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Speaker: Joe Biden
Statement: “No governor in Virginia has ever won when...he or she is the same party as the sitting president.”
Date: Nov. 3
Setting: News conference

President Joe Biden recently flubbed Virginia history while trying to avoid blame for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s loss to Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election.

“No governor in Virginia has ever won when...he or she is the same party as the sitting president,” Biden, a Democrat, said during a Nov. 3 news conference

No doubt, it’s been a very reliable trend for 48 years that Virginians in their odd-year gubernatorial races elect the candidate from the opposite party of the president. Usually, there’s some dissatisfaction with the incumbent president that plays a role in the gubernatorial election. And the party that lost the presidential election a year earlier is often highly motivated for the gubernatorial race. 

But the trend is not etched in stone. McAuliffe bucked it in 2013 when he was elected governor while Democrat Barack Obama was in the White House. 

You have to go back to 1973 to find the previous time it happened. Republican Richard Nixon was president and Mills Godwin, a longtime Democrat who defected to the GOP, was elected governor.

In 1969, while Nixon was in the first year of his presidency, Linwood Holton became the first Republican to win Virginia’s governorship in 100 years.

Until 1969, Virginia had been dominated since the end of Reconstruction by a segregationist Democratic Party that won 21 straight gubernatorial elections dating to 1885. Eleven times during that span, they were elected with fellow Democrats holding the presidency.

Our ruling

Biden said, “No governor in Virginia has ever won when...he or she is the same party as the sitting president.”

He’s wrong. Although it’s been extremely rare in the last 48 years for Virginia to elect a governor of the president’s party, it did happen in 2013. And it was quite common prior to 1977. 

We rate Biden’s statement False.
 

Sources

President Joe Biden, News conference, Nov. 3, 2021 (8:37 mark)
National Governors Association, Former Virginia governors, accessed Nov. 10, 2021
Wikipedia, List of presidents, accessed Nov. 10, 2021