In the last of only two gubernatorial debates GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe made their pitches to Virginia moderates on issues including vaccinations, abortion, qualified immunity, business climate, and Afghan refugees in the Commonwealth. But Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding provided the most interesting moment of the debate by interrupting from the audience.
Moderators had asked McAuliffe about a statistic the Youngkin campaign cites showing that murder rates rose during McAuliffe’s first term. McAuliffe responded by citing his past investment in law enforcement and sheriffs. He also called for gun control.
“Terry, why am I not allowed on the stage? As governor I will defund the police,” Blanding said before being drowned out by the moderator as producers cut away from the live feed.
Blanding talked to The Virginia Star afterwards, and said she walked out after being asked to leave. She explained what she said to the candidates.
“I said to them, I am an official candidate for governor, I made it on the ballot, why am I not allowed to participate and be up on the same stage?” She continued, “I said to them, the reality is that I am the very first Black woman in Virginia’s history to make it on the ballot. Why am I continuously being erased?”
“I said that I am the only candidate that is truly fighting for the working class,” she said. “I am a part of the working class, and that is who I am fighting for.”
Blanding said she is fighting for increased teacher pay, transgender rights, reproductive rights, and the Green New Deal.
She didn’t plan her speech in advance.
“It happened because we have these two performative candidates, one’s a former elected official, that are up here talking about topics that affect the working class and the oppressed people, but they’re muting and they’re censoring my candidacy,” she said.
In an email shared with The Star, host the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce (NVCC) told Blanding’s campaign that she could attend as a guest, and offered her time following the debate to speak to in-person media covering the event.
“Participants in this debate have historically been the nominees of the two major parties. Therefore, respectfully, we will not invite Ms. Blanding to participate,” the NVCC spokesperson said.
Blanding is an activist and mental health advocate who announced her campaign at the end of 2020. She is the sister of Marcus-David Peters, who was killed by Richmond police as he ran nude on I-95 while experiencing a mental health crisis.
Many polls do not include her in their questioning, but the few that have suggest that Blanding may get enough support to act as a spoiler to McAuliffe. A recent University of Mary Washington (UMW) poll found two percent support for Blanding. Blanding said that even that poll wasn’t fair, since McAuliffe and Youngkin were randomized in question order, but always placed above Blanding.
Afghan Refugees in Virginia
Moderators asked Youngkin if he supports helping Afghan evacuees resettle in Virginia.
“Let’s just start with what we saw happen in Afghanistan. We saw an abject failure of leadership from Joe Biden,” Youngkin said. “I think that we in fact have to recognize what failed leadership looks like and the fact that Terry McAuliffe ascribes to all of this. We’ve watched failure in our border down in Texas, it’s absolute chaos. Open borders. We recognize that we’re a nation of laws, and we need to make sure that we’re processing everyone who comes in. Have they had a COVID vaccine? Terry, you want everyone else to get one, have the Afghan refugees got one?”
Youngkin continued, “I think we should in fact make sure that those that stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us are welcomed, that they’re processed appropriately, and that they can have a home in Virginia.”
McAuliffe answered the moderators, “Sure. Absolutely. These people helped the United States of America, and we owe them a responsibility. So I have always been for it.”
“I have a son, a Marine captain, who served over in that region,” McAuliffe said. “So I will always stand with our military and those that assist our military. That’s why I was proud as governor, we were the first state in America to functionally end veteran homelessness. We were the first state in America to add all these college courses to make sure we could get our veterans jobs as soon as they came out of active duty. First state in America to have our cyber vets. And when I was governor, 26,000 more vets were hired through our V3 program. I love our military, and I am proud of our military here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Youngkin replied, “Today we see more of our veterans moving away from Virginia than moving to Virginia. This year it’s estimated that 25,000 of our heroes will complete their last posting in Virginia and move away. And they’re going to Tennessee and North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Arizona because Virginia is not the right place for them because they can’t find a job, we tax their retirement benefits, we’ve made it hard for them to transition from military service to civilian life.”
Support for Infrastructure Bills
Moderators asked Youngkin if Virginia’s Republican members of Congress should vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“I believe that there is good future in the infrastructure bill, and I look forward to those funds coming to Virginia and putting them to work. And one of the realities is, when you have an offshore wind project which I wholly support, but you have people who’ve never run a business, never negotiated something before negotiating — all of the supply chain is not in America, not in Virginia. We should have negotiated American content, Virginian content in that. And that’s what you get when you elect people to office who don’t know how to run a business.
Moderator Chuck Todd asked McAuliffe if he supported the separate, larger $3.5 trillion infrastructure package. McAuliffe started by firing back at Youngkin.
He said, “It is so frightening to listen to him talking about Virginia content. We don’t make it yet. We don’t make it here in America, this is all a crazy talking point, it’s like Trump again. We need to build it here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We can’t do it today.”
McAuliffe said, “I think the $3.5 [trillion] is too high, sure. But here’s my message to Congress: I am really sick and tired of all of them. You know what, they ought to follow the Virginia model. When I was governor, in a bipartisan way Chuck, I got education done, I got transportation done, I got veterans and economic done.”
Youngkin said broken politics and failed leadership have divided neighborhoods. He touted building schools, jobs, the economy and fighting crime.
“You deserve better. My campaign was founded on a vision that would confront challenges, not people, that would deliver results, not excuses. It’s time to summon the spirit of Washington, of Jefferson, of Madison, and yes, Mason, by coming together to build a Virginia that we can all be proud of, a Virginia that leads.”
McAuliffe said Youngkin’s message was “all an act,” and said that Youngkin wants to ban abortions, is opposed to gay marriage, and says the most important issue is election integrity. McAuliffe promised a $15-an-hour minimum wage, paid sick days, family medical leave, funding education, and healthcare for all Virginians.
McAuliffe said, “[Youngkin] said so much of the reason that he’s running for governor, his quote, is because of Donald Trump. Well, I want every Virginian watching tonight. I’m running for governor for you.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Princess Blanding” by Eva McKend.