Elections in New York, Virginia: What do Jews think?

Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated the Democratic state governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe while Eric Adams took the win as New York City's mayor - here is what some Jews think of the victories.

 Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Eric Adams reacts as he speaks after being declared victor at his election night party in Brooklyn, New York, US November 2, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)
Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Eric Adams reacts as he speaks after being declared victor at his election night party in Brooklyn, New York, US November 2, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)

Jewish Americans had mixed reactions to the dramatic outcome of the Virginia elections on Wednesday that saw Republican Glenn Youngkin defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe as the state's governor.

"It was not a pleasant night for Democrats," said Zach Shartiag, the chair of the Young Democrats of America Jewish Caucus, which is a national organization for Democrats under 36. "A lot of progress was made under the current governor Ralph Northam that improved the lives of Virginians, so it's bad that we probably will be taking steps backward under Glenn Youngkin. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle due to the history of these elections, but it's scary to see their tactics of dog whistles worked this time. 

The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement congratulating Youngkin on his victory.

"We congratulate Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin on his victory. The governor's race in Virginia was an indicator of the kind of Issues — And the kind of campaign — That will result in Republican victories in the 2022 midterm elections," Said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks."

 Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election night party at a hotel in Chantilly, Virginia, US, November 3, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST) Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election night party at a hotel in Chantilly, Virginia, US, November 3, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)

"I think that this election in Virginia marks the first major rejection of Biden’s presidency which has been a mixed bag for many Jewish Americans," said Emily Schrader, CEO of Social Lite Creative and US political consultant. "While many were happy to see a transition away from Trump domestically, the fact remains he was a staunch supporter of Israel and more importantly Iran sanctions were being enforced. With Biden, we see a dangerous trend [in] the opposite direction."

Youngkin's victory was narrow, but the flipping of a state that was heavily democrat during the Presidential elections has been hailed as Republican commentators as a referendum on the Biden administration and an indication of the momentum for future elections. 

Glenn Youngkin showed that it can be done — even in a "blue" state that went Democrat by 10%+ just a year ago — And we look forward to seeing and supporting many, many more republican victories next November as well," said Brooks.

"It's an off-cycle election, so these usually have lower turnout and can be hard to read," said Shartiag. 

"I think it is a wake-up call that we have a lot more work to do before 2022. I think there is some nervousness, but it also reaffirms the need to pass Biden's Build Back Better plan to show that not only can deliver but genuinely improve people's lives. This reemphasizes the need to continue to reach out to all voters and invest more in organizing." 

"From a Jewish Caucus perspective, continue to invest more in fieldwork, passing bold legislation that improves people's lives, and not to be afraid to take risks to win/pass legislation. Have better overall messaging."

The results of the election brought some Democrats to reassess their messaging strategies, and some Republicans to attribute their victory to key campaign issues.

During the campaign, the Jewish Democratic Council of America described Youngkin as former President Donald Trump's "hand-picked candidate," and asserted that he was "bringing Trump's right-wing extremism to Virginia."

"There are some lessons to be learned here.  Democrats can't run on just being anti-Trump," Shartiag. "A lot of the GOP in Virginia ran on the same principles as Trump but repackaged it with a more 'friendly face'. Glenn Youngkin was able to avoid a nasty primary since he was selected at a convention, which means he had a lot smaller of an electorate to win over and could control his image better."

"Youngkin ran without aligning himself with Trump and was vocal against critical race theory which has been hotly contested in the US in recent years due to portraying Jews as 'white' and erasing much of the Jewish story and history as a minority group," said Schrader. "His win is a victory against the push towards critical race theory and shows that there is life for the GOP post-Trump — perhaps a shift to a more moderate GOP, it remains to be seen."

Conservatives campaigned heavily on education, specifically on the teaching of critical race theory, and the alleged cover-up of sexual assaults in a Loudoun County school district.

"Turns out that gaslighting parents about teaching their kids racial essentialism and gender theory by calling them racists is a bad electoral strategy. Who knew?" Tweeted Conservative Jewish American pundit Ben Shapiro.

Batya Ungar-Sargon, the deputy opinion editor for Newsweek, tweeted that "the highly educated chattering class has indulged in so much sneering and smearing of parents who can't define critical race theory but sense their kids are imbibing something that makes them uncomfortable. This isn't about politics or race or even culture wars. It's about class."

Shartiag noted that "there were also local elections in...other states yesterday. A lot of young people, including young Jews, ran and got elected to city councils, school boards, county councils, etc, which as an org we love to see. Even if we won VA, I'd still say It's hard to extrapolate a lot out of [a] single data point."

One of the other elections that were finalized on Wednesday was the victory of Eric Adams in the race for mayor of New York City. The Associated Press called Adams's victory 10 minutes after the polls closed at 9PM. 

Adams, who defeated long-shot GOP candidate Curtis Silwa in the overwhelmingly Democratic city, pitched himself as a moderate Democrat who opposes the "defund the police" movement but promises to rid of racist policing practices. He also portrays himself as a "blue-collar" New Yorker, saying working-class Democrats have been ignored by the party's more liberal wing.

The Democratic Majority for Israel congratulated Adams "on his election as the 110th mayor of NYC! We are delighted to see that Adams, a pro-Israel Democrat, has emerged victorious – reaffirming that being pro-Israel is good politics as well as wise policy."

Haley Cohen contributed to this report.