Voters in Virginia have elected Youngkin as the next governor after years of Democratic control, according to the AP. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe conceded Wednesday morning.



The governor's race in Virginia drew plenty of voters and nationwide attention today. Polls closed at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, but it's still too close to call the winner. It's a contest between GOP businessman Glenn Youngkin and former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. Republicans haven't won statewide office in Virginia for more than a decade, but they're hoping that will change tonight. We're joined by Jahd Khalil, reporter for public radio station Radio IQ in Virginia. He's actually at Youngkin's campaign - at the Youngkin campaign's election night party in northern Virginia.

And, Jahd, can you hear me?

JAHD KHALIL, BYLINE: Yes, I can. Thank you.

CORNISH: A lot of buzz behind you - where do things stand right now?

KHALIL: Well, Youngkin is leading by almost 10%, with 75% of votes in. Joe Biden actually won by the same amount last year, so it's a pretty big flip. It's - going into Election Day, this was a really close race. Most polls had it neck and neck, and that was pretty notable because Terry McAuliffe is a big deal. He was the governor here for four years. He's kind of this legendary fundraiser nationwide. And there was this belief Virginia was now a blue state, so this has really shook Democratic confidence here. Obviously, we don't know who is going to be the governor. One thing that we do have a good idea of is turnout. It looks like Republican turnout is way up since 2017. That's when the last governor's election was. That's at least with the data that we have now.

CORNISH: Give us the fuller picture. What's missing still in this vote count?

KHALIL: The early vote is still missing (inaudible) have some half (inaudible) one million voters that voted early. In 2020, there was this idea that Republicans don't vote early, but Youngkin was encouraging people to vote early. And so we might have some of those votes coming in for him. Initially, there were concerns among Democrats about enthusiasm, but some places in Northern Virginia surpassed - or look like they're going to surpass 2017 turnout. But if Youngkin kind of cut into that, that would be a big hit for the Democrats.

CORNISH: Can you tell us a little bit more about these candidates, for instance, the Republican message from Youngkin?

KHALIL: Schools was the galvanizing issue for Republicans. You know, here I see people in, like, sequined jackets. But underneath, there's a T-shirt that says - you know, talking about, like, Republicans for schools and that sort of thing. Youngkin talked about critical race theory on the campaign trail a lot. That's actually not taught in schools, but it was a good galvanizing issue for a lot of the Republican base. That kind of was part of a catchall theme that Republicans had, that - the catchall theme being government control. When it comes to schools, the idea is that the government wants you to kind of submit to the - what the government wants your kids to learn about race in school. There's also the idea of opposition to vaccine mandates for health care workers, higher taxes - the opposition to that because he argued that you have a better idea of what your money should go to than the government. A lot of people voted against President Joe Biden too. You saw, let's go, Brandon, shirts around the campaign trail. That's kind of a coded way of insulting Biden. And Youngkin really wanted Trump voters to come out because he hasn't really shut down some of the election conspiracy theories that have been bubbling around for the past few years.

CORNISH: We have just a few seconds left. What happened with some of those legislative elections?

KHALIL: It's looking like the Republicans might take it back. And if they do, they say that they want to roll back a lot of public benefits here in Virginia, which were expanded under the Democrats.

CORNISH: That's reporter Jahd Khalil in Northern Virginia.

Thanks so much for the update.

KHALIL: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.