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PolitiFact VA: Youngkin overstates his 2021 vote from cities

Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks into a microphone
Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at a 2021 campaign event. Youngkin recently touted his electoral success, falsely claiming he'd won cities no Republican ever had. (File photo: Crixell Matthew/VPM News)

Speaker: Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Statement: In his election as governor, “We won cities that no Republican had ever won.”
Date: Oct. 31
Setting: New York campaign rally

Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently told New York Republicans that their underdog nominee for governor, Lee Zeldin, was facing the same doubts that Youngkin encountered during his 2021 campaign.

“Here we stand in a moment just like I was last year,” Youngkin said during an Oct. 31 Zeldin rally in Westchester, New York.

“All these smart pundits said … ‘a Republican can’t win in New York,’ and that’s exactly what they said in Virginia last year: ‘No Republican can win for governor in Virginia. The suburbs are too blue, the media is too strong,’” he said. “They forgot to do one thing: Ask the voters.”

Youngkin said his embrace of parental rights and strengthening education standards — similar to what Zeldin was calling for — turned Virginia’s race around. Among Youngkin’s claims about the vastness of his victory was this: “We won cities that no Republican had ever won.”

Youngkin won 50.6% of the vote in his 2021 victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe. He and his two running mates — Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares — became the first Republicans to win a statewide election in Virginia since 2009. (Zeldin lost his 2022 New York gubernatorial race to Democrat Kathy Hochul).

But did Youngkin win “cities that no Republican had ever won?” We fact-checked his claim and found it was wrong.

GOP results in Virginia cities

Youngkin won 14 of Virginia’s 38 independent cities: Bristol; Buena Vista; Chesapeake; Colonial Heights; Covington; Galax; Hopewell; Lynchburg; Norton; Poquoson; Radford; Salem; Virginia Beach and Waynesboro.

In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell won 13 of those cities while winning the governorship. The exception was Covington, which was won in 2017 by Republican Ed Gillespie in a losing bid for governor.

In other words, every city Youngkin won had been won by another Republican since 2009.

And if you go back to 1993, when Republican George Allen was elected governor in a landslide vote, every city won by Youngkin had been won at least twice before by a Republican. 

Youngkin’s explanation

We asked Youngkin’s office to back up the governor’s claim and got an email from Kristin Davison, a private political consultant for Youngkin. She switched the subject.

Davison said, “Gov. Youngkin received the highest raw count among governors in every locality except Danville and Petersburg.”

She sent a chart going back to McDonnell’s election in 2009.

Indeed, Youngkin had received the most raw votes in all but two of Virginia’s 133 cities and counties at least since 2009. But that’s not all due to popularity. Virginia has made early voting and mail-in voting easier, and the state’s population has increased. In 2009, 2 million voters cast ballots in Virginia’s gubernatorial election compared to 3.3 million voters in 2021. That’s a 65% increase. Youngkin received 43% more votes than McDonnell.

Another way of looking at it: McDonnell got 58.6% of the vote compared to Youngkin’s 50.6%.

But again, this is a diversion. Davison’s explanation dealt with raw votes and did not address Youngkin’s claim that he had won cities Republicans hadn’t won before.

Our ruling

Youngkin said that in his 2021 election as governor, “We won cities that no Republican had ever won.”

State voting records disprove him. Youngkin won 14 Virginia cities. Each of those cities had been won at least once by a Republican gubernatorial candidate since 2009. Each had been won at least twice by a Republican gubernatorial candidate since 1993.

We rate Youngkin’s statement False.

Sources

Glenn Youngkin, speech at New York campaign rally, Oct. 31, 2022 (47:20 mark)
Email from Kristin Davison, vice president for Axiom Strategies, Nov. 4, 2022
Virginia Department of Elections, general election gubernatorial results, 2021, 2017, 2013, 2009, 2005, 2001, 1997, 1993
Virginia Department of Elections, voter registration statistics, Oct. 31, 2009, Nov. 1, 2021