|74th Governor of Virginia|
|Assumed office |
January 15, 2022
|Preceded by||Ralph Northam|
Glenn Allen Youngkin
December 9, 1966
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
|Education||Rice University (BA, BS)|
Harvard University (MBA)
Glenn Allen Youngkin (born December 9, 1966) is an American businessman and politician serving as the 74th governor of Virginia since January 15, 2022. A member of the Republican Party, Youngkin defeated former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election. Prior to entering politics, he spent 25 years at the private-equity firm the Carlyle Group, where he became co–CEO in 2018. Youngkin stepped down from the Carlyle Group in September 2020, and announced his candidacy for the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election in January 2021.
Glenn Allen Youngkin was born in Richmond, Virginia, on December 9, 1966. He is the son of Ellis (née Quinn) and Carroll Wayne Youngkin. His father played basketball for Duke University and worked in accounting and finance. When Youngkin was a teenager, the family moved from Richmond to Virginia Beach. He attended Norfolk Academy in Norfolk, Virginia, graduating in 1985. He received numerous high school basketball honors.
Youngkin attended Rice University in Houston, Texas on a basketball scholarship. He played four seasons for the Owls in the Southwest Conference, and he totaled 82 points and 67 rebounds in his career. In 1990, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in managerial studies and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. He attended Harvard Business School and earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 1994.
After graduating from Rice in 1990, Youngkin joined the investment bank First Boston, where he handled mergers and acquisitions and capital market financing. The company was bought out by Credit Suisse and became Credit Suisse First Boston; Youngkin left in 1992 to pursue an MBA.
In 1994, after receiving his MBA, he joined the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
In August 1995, Youngkin joined the private-equity firm The Carlyle Group, based in Washington, D.C., initially as a member of the US buyout team. In 1999, he was named a partner and managing director of Carlyle. He managed the firm's United Kingdom buyout team (2000–2005) and global industrial sector investment team (2005–2008), dividing his time between London and Washington.
In April 2008, Carlyle's founders asked Youngkin to step back from deal-making to focus on the firm's broader strategy. In 2009, the founders created a seven-person operating committee, chaired by Youngkin, which oversaw the non-deal, day-to-day operations of Carlyle. In 2009 Youngkin also joined, along with Daniel Akerson, the firm's executive committee, which had previously consisted solely of the three founders.
When Carlyle's chief financial officer Peter Nachtwey left suddenly in late 2010, Youngkin became interim CFO until Adena Friedman was hired as CFO late March 2011. In 2010, Youngkin joined the firm's management committee. Youngkin was chief operating officer of the Carlyle Group from March 2011 until June 2014.
Youngkin played a major role in taking Carlyle public, supervising the initial public offering.
In June 2014, he became co-president and co-chief operating officer with Michael J. Cavanagh, who joined the Carlyle Group from JPMorgan Chase. Together they helped develop and implement the firm's growth initiatives and managed the firm's operations on a day-to-day basis. Cavanagh left the firm in May 2015 to become CFO of Comcast, leaving Youngkin as president and COO of Carlyle.
In October 2017, the Carlyle Group announced that its founders would remain executive chairmen on the board of directors but step down as the day-to-day leaders of the firm; they named Youngkin and Kewsong Lee to succeed them, as co-CEOs, effective January 1, 2018. As co-CEOs, Youngkin oversaw Carlyle's real estate, energy, infrastructure businesses, and investment solutions businesses; Lee oversaw the firm's corporate private equity and global credit businesses. Youngkin and Lee also joined the firm's board of directors when they became co-CEOs.
During Youngkin and Lee's tenure as co-CEOs, they oversaw the firm's transition from a publicly traded partnership into a corporation.
Bloomberg News described the co-CEO relationship as "awkward ... and increasingly acrimonious". The publication later wrote that Lee "quickly established dominance, diminishing Youngkin’s clout." This was largely due to Lee being given control of the corporate private equity and global credit units at the onset, which were bigger and more profitable than the others. In July 2020, Youngkin announced that he would retire from the Carlyle Group at the end of September 2020, after serving as co-CEO for 2 1⁄2 years, stating his intention to focus on community and public service efforts. In 2020, Youngkin and his wife founded a nonprofit, Virginia Ready Initiative, focusing on connecting unemployed people in the state with job-training programs and potential employers.
Main article: 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election
In January 2021, Youngkin announced that he would seek the Republican Party of Virginia's nomination for governor of Virginia. A first-time candidate, Youngkin's personal wealth gave him the ability to self-fund his candidacy, and he spent at least $5.5 million of his own money on his primary campaign. Youngkin was endorsed by Ted Cruz during the primary; Cruz has described Youngkin as a close family friend. Youngkin had previously donated to Cruz's 2018 re-election campaign.
Youngkin won the nomination at the party's state convention on May 10, 2021, after multiple rounds of ranked-choice voting at thirty-nine locations across the state. He defeated six other candidates. All the Republican candidates, including Youngkin, stressed their support for Donald Trump and Trumpism, although other candidates for the nomination, such as state senator Amanda Chase, were the most vocally pro-Trump. After winning the party's nomination, Youngkin was endorsed by Trump. He called the endorsement an "honor" but sought to distance himself from some of Trump's most ardent supporters. The New York Times wrote in October that Youngkin had sought to localize the race. Youngkin openly courted both Trump supporters and never-Trump voters.
Youngkin's Democratic opponent in the general election, Terry McAuliffe, had previously served as governor from 2014 through 2018. The Virginia constitution bars governors from serving consecutive terms, and McAuliffe sought to become the first Virginia governor to serve two terms since Mills Godwin. On July 12, 2021, Youngkin declined to face McAuliffe in the Virginia Bar Association debate, citing his objection to the moderator, Judy Woodruff, for a donation she made to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund in 2010. The VBA had held a gubernatorial debate every election year since 1985. McAuliffe and Youngkin went on to debate two times during the campaign.
According to PolitiFact, before the Republican convention, Youngkin "toed a delicate line when asked if Biden was legitimately elected. He acknowledged that Biden was president but would not clearly say whether he thought the president was fairly elected. After the convention, Youngkin began acknowledging that Biden's election was legitimate." Amanda Chase, who has advanced conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, acted as a campaign surrogate for Youngkin after losing the Republican primary to him, and the Associated Press noted that, while running for governor, Youngkin "failed to refute a conspiracy theory" about the 2020 election; when asked at one of his rallies, several months after Biden had been inaugurated, if Trump could be restored as president, Youngkin replied, "I don’t know the particulars about how that can happen because what’s happening in the court system is moving slowly and it’s unclear."
Youngkin made a campaign appearance with Mike Pence in August, and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon spoke in support of Youngkin at an October rally, which also featured a video appearance from Trump. Youngkin did not personally attend the October rally, although he thanked the host for holding it. He later called it "weird and wrong" when that rally opened with attendees pledging allegiance to a flag that had flown, in the words of the event emcee, "at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on Jan. 6."
When asked by Axios during the campaign whether he would have voted to certify Biden's election had he been a member of Congress at the time, Youngkin initially refused to answer. A few days later, Youngkin's campaign released a statement confirming that Youngkin would have voted to certify Biden's election. Throughout the campaign, he continued to emphasize "election integrity" as a major theme and voiced support for stricter voting laws, such as a photo ID requirement.
During his second debate against McAuliffe, Youngkin stated that McAuliffe had vetoed legislation that would have required schools to inform parents about sexually explicit content in educational materials. McAuliffe defended his veto, saying: "'I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision... I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach'". This quote was described by Politico as "a widely perceived gaffe that Republicans quickly pounced on", and Youngkin used it to create an attack ad. Following the election, Newsweek cited polling data showing that McAuliffe's comment on the veto had been "a major factor in the race".
The legislation discussed by Youngkin and McAuliffe during their debate exchange had originated when a conservative activist attempted to have the book Beloved by Toni Morrison removed from high school curriculums in Virginia. This activist was featured in an ad for Youngkin's campaign, although the ad did not specify which book the activist had opposed or that her child had been a high school senior when the book was assigned. Youngkin's focus on the legislation, known as the "Beloved Bill", was criticized by Virginia Democrats, who accused him of targeting a black author. Both McAuliffe and Richmond mayor Levar Stoney called Youngkin's use of this issue "a racist dog whistle". Youngkin countered that some Virginia Democrats had voted for the bill. NBC News wrote that Beloved "erupted as a flashpoint in the closing days of Virginia's race for governor", and The Washington Post wrote shortly before the election that the book had "suddenly become the hottest topic" in the campaign.
On November 2, 2021, Youngkin defeated McAuliffe, 50.58%–48.64%. Before the 2021 elections, Republicans had not prevailed in a statewide race in Virginia since 2009. Youngkin's victory was attributed to a coalition of voters consisting of both Trump supporters and some suburban residents who had supported Joe Biden in 2020.
Main article: Governorship of Glenn Youngkin
Youngkin was sworn in as governor on January 15, 2022. He took office alongside his Republican ticket mates, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, the first woman of color elected to statewide office in Virginia, and Attorney General Jason Miyares, the first Latino elected to statewide office in the state. The Washington Post called this ticket "historically diverse" and reported that it was a sign of "inroads" made by the Republican Party "in the African American and Latino communities." Former Democratic Governor of Virginia Douglas Wilder commented after the election that Republicans had "one-upped" Democrats with the historic achievement, which, he said, showed that Democrats "can't take the [Black] community for granted."
Youngkin was inaugurated two years into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. His first week in office coincided with the January 14–17, 2022 North American winter storm. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the morning before his inauguration, Youngkin participated in a community service project at "the Reconciliation Statue along the Richmond Slave Trail in Shockoe Bottom, which was home to the second largest domestic slave market in the United States before the Civil War." Later that night, an inauguration eve party was held for Youngkin at the Omni Richmond Hotel. Another inauguration eve event for Youngkin was later held at the Science Museum of Virginia. On the night of his inauguration, Youngkin held a celebratory event at the Richmond Main Street Station.
The Washington Post wrote that Youngkin's inaugural address "delivered the blend of religious confidence and boardroom bravado that powered his victory", while The Associated Press characterized the address as one that carried "a tone of bipartisanship and optimism". The Washington Post noted that Youngkin used the address to criticize modern politics as "too toxic", but also wrote that, immediately after the address, Youngkin "stirred partisan rancor" by signing a series of polarizing executive actions. The publication noted that Youngkin's praise for the COVID-19 vaccine "fell flat with the largely mask-free crowd". Along with NPR, it reported that Youngkin's biggest applause was for a line about "removing politics from the classroom".
After his inauguration, Youngkin signed eleven executive actions. The first of these bans the teaching of what it calls "inherently divisive concepts" and identifies critical race theory as one such concept. While critical race theory has been widely discussed by teachers at workshops sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education, it has never been endorsed by the department or included in the state’s public school curriculum. In his executive order, Youngkin characterized critical race theory and related concepts as "political indoctrination" that "instruct students to only view life through the lens of race and presumes that some students are consciously or unconsciously racist, sexist, or oppressive, and that other students are victims." Frederick Hess, education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, approved of the order as "sensible and thoughtful and well-written".
The Washington Post has noted that while critical race theory specifically refers to "an academic framework that examines how policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism in the United States", the term has been reappropriated by conservatives "as a catchall symbolizing schools’ equity and diversity work." Youngkin's stance on critical race theory has been condemned by leaders of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, has "alarmed many educators" in the state. Youngkin's critics, the publication wrote, view the banning of critical race theory as an attempt to "whitewash" history and "erase black history".
Two of the executive actions signed by Youngkin on his first day in office rescinded COVID-19 regulations that had been enacted by the previous administration; one of these actions rescinded Virginia's statewide mask mandate for public schools and attempted to make compliance with local public school mask mandates optional; the other rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees. Additionally, one of Youngkin's Day One executive orders called for a reevaluation of the workplace safety standards that had been adopted by the Northam administration as a protection against COVID-19.
The other executive actions taken by Youngkin on his first day in office were devoted to firing and replacing the entire Virginia Parole Board, calling for the state's Attorney General to investigate the handling of sexual assaults that had recently occurred in the Loudoun County public school system, initiating reviews of the Virginia Parole Board, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Virginia Employment Commission, creating commissions to combat antisemitism and human trafficking, ordering state agencies under Youngkin's authority to reduce nonmandatory regulations by 25%, and calling for the state to reevaluate its membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The Washington Post noted that Youngkin's first executive orders had gone "far beyond the practice of his predecessors in the Executive Mansion over the past 20 years", writing that while each of those predecessors had focused their first executive actions on "less incendiary topics", such as anti-discrimination protections and policy studies, Youngkin's first executive actions, "by contrast...poked a stick directly into a host of polarizing issues". Former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Bill Bolling, a Republican, condemned Youngkin's repeal of public school mask mandates, saying that it introduced "unnecessary controversy, confusion and litigation" and calling it "in direct conflict with an existing state law." The legality of Youngkin using an executive order to ban the teaching of critical race theory has also been called into question. VPM News reported that Youngkin's critics view the order as "unenforceable". The Washington Post noted that no governor had "banned critical race theory via executive order" before Youngkin and predicted that any such order would face court challenges, writing that it was "not clear" whether Youngkin would be exceeding his legal authority by issuing such an order.
Two lawsuits were brought in January against Youngkin's executive order nullifying local public school mask mandates in Virginia. One of the lawsuits was brought by a group of parents from Chesapeake and the other was brought by seven of the state's school boards. The lawsuits argued that Youngkin's executive order infringed upon local control given to Virginia school boards by the state constitution and violated a state law requiring that Virginia public schools comply with CDCP health guidelines "to the maximum extent practicable". The ACLU, representing a group of medically vulnerable students in Virginia, brought an additional lawsuit in February, arguing that Youngkin's policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against students who would be at high risk if infected by COVID-19. Youngkin called on Virginia parents to cooperate with school principals while the lawsuits proceeded.
A majority of public school districts in Virginia refused to comply with the executive order and continued to enforce local mask mandates into February. On February 4, an Arlington County judge ruled to allow mask mandates to be temporarily retained in the seven school districts that had sued to stop Youngkin's order while their case proceeded through the courts. Three days later, the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit brought by the group of parents from Chesapeake; the dismissal was for procedural reasons and did not rule on the legality of Youngkin's executive order, nor did it overturn the ruling that had been issued that week in Arlington County. The same day that the Chesapeake lawsuit was dismissed, the Youngkin administration joined a lawsuit against the Loudoun County school system, brought by a group of parents in that county, who were challenging their school system's decision to continue enforcing a mask mandate.
School systems throughout Virginia began dropping their mask mandates in mid-February, after Youngkin signed a bill requiring that they do so by March 1. The ACLU expanded the scope of its lawsuit against the Youngkin administration to include this new law, and on March 23, 2022, a federal judge decided the lawsuit by ruling that school districts in Virginia could choose to require masking in areas frequented by the plaintiffs. The ruling did not overturn Youngkin's executive order or the state law and only applies to school systems attended by the plaintiffs.
Further information: Governorship of Glenn Youngkin § Cabinet
Youngkin began announcing nominations for his sixteen member cabinet on December 20, 2021 and did not finish the process until after his inauguration. According to The Washington Post, Youngkin assembled his cabinet at a slower pace than prior Virginia governors. Commenting on this process, the publication wrote in December 2021, "The slow pace has turned the quadrennial parlor game of predicting Cabinet picks into a far more protracted and opaque process [than usual], with lobbyists, interest groups and other Richmond insiders left guessing what the new administration might look like. Youngkin’s practice of sidestepping many policy specifics during the campaign has only heightened the anticipation."
Several news outlets noted that Youngkin's focus on education as a campaign priority was reflected in his decision to begin announcing his cabinet nominees with his choice for Secretary of Education. Although Youngkin suggested while campaigning for the Republican gubernatorial nomination that he would name his then-opponent Kirk Cox, a former Speaker of the House of Delegates, to the position, he instead chose Aimee Rogstad Guidera, the founder of a data firm focused on fostering student achievement.
Five of Youngkin's cabinet nominees are women and three are African American. Many of his nominees were brought in from other states, and only a few of his nominees had any prior government experience. The Washington Post wrote of these nominees, "Their newcomer status is on brand for Youngkin, who ran touting his lack of political experience as an asset. But it also presents the new administration with a steep learning curve."
To serve as his chief of staff, Youngkin chose Jeff Goettman, who served as a Treasury Department official in the Trump Administration before becoming the chief operating officer of Youngkin's campaign. Youngkin and Goettman share a professional background in private equity. Kay Coles James, who was the first Black woman to serve as president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, joined Youngkin's administration as Secretary of the Commonwealth. For the role of counselor, a cabinet-level position, Youngkin chose Richard Cullen, an attorney described by The Washington Post as "the ultimate Richmond insider". Cullen had been chairman of McGuireWoods, and in the 1990s, served out the remainder of Jim Gilmore's term as Attorney General of Virginia, after Gilmore resigned to run for governor. The Washington Post reported that Cullen's appointment was "widely seen as a nod to the establishment class" and theorized that the choice "could suggest that Youngkin does not intend to thoroughly disrupt 'politics as usual' in a state where cozy ties between government and business interests have long been lauded - and derided - as 'the Virginia way.'" The publication further wrote, "At the very least, the choice indicates that Youngkin wants an experienced political hand on his team as he tries to get his arms around the state’s sprawling bureaucracy."
Youngkin finished announcing his cabinet nominees on January 19, 2022, with his choice for Chief Diversity Officer. This position was established by Youngkin's immediate predecessor, Ralph Northam, in response to a scandal involving racist imagery appearing on Northam's medical school yearbook page - a scandal that nearly caused Northam to resign from office. The idea for a Chief Diversity Officer was born out of a commitment made by Northam to focus the remainder of his term on advancing racial equity in Virginia. Youngkin did not announce a nomination for Chief Diversity Officer until after his inauguration, which led to media speculation that he would be eliminating the position. Youngkin's nominee for Chief Diversity Officer, Angela Sailor, was an executive at the Heritage Foundation and held multiple roles in George W. Bush's presidential administration.
Virginia's Chief Diversity Officer oversees the state's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which was designed under Northam to "address systemic inequities" existing within the state government. Upon announcing Sailor's nomination to serve in his cabinet, Youngkin issued an executive order restructuring the agency. The order said that the agency would "be an ambassador for unborn children", devote resources towards emphasizing parental involvement in public school education, take an increased role in "[assisting] Virginians living with disabilities and bringing Virginians of different faiths together", elevate "viewpoint diversity in higher education", and focus on creating "equal opportunity" for every Virginian. Youngkin sought to rename the agency as the Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion, but a legislative proposal to do so was voted down in the state senate.
Youngkin's initial nominee for Secretary of Natural Resources, Andrew Wheeler, was voted down on a party-line vote in the Democratic-controlled State Senate. Wheeler had served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Trump Administration, and before that, worked as a coal lobbyist. His tenure at the EPA was marked by reversals of environmental regulations that had been implemented by the Obama administration, and his nomination to serve in Youngkin's cabinet was heavily criticized by environmental advocates. A letter signed by 150 former EPA employees was sent to the Virginia legislature expressing opposition to Wheeler's nomination.
As noted by The Washington Post, cabinet nominees almost always receive bipartisan support in Virginia state politics; although prior Virginia governor Bob McDonnell withdrew one of his cabinet nominees in response to Democratic opposition, only one cabinet nominee before Wheeler had ever been formally voted down by the Virginia state legislature - Daniel G. LeBlanc, an AFL–CIO chief whose nomination by Tim Kaine to serve as Secretary of the Commonwealth was rejected by Republicans in 2006. Wheeler served as acting Secretary of Natural Resources until mid-March 2022, when Youngkin appointed him as a senior advisor, a role that does not require confirmation by the legislature.
Leading up to the vote on his nomination, Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates retaliated against Democrats for opposing Wheeler, by both blocking the reappointment of a judge to the State Corporation Commission and leaving two Virginia Supreme Court vacancies open. After Wheeler's nomination was defeated in the State Senate, House Republicans, with Youngkin's support, announced plans to reject about 1,000 appointees to state boards; the appointees had all been nominated by Northam, and it was a long-standing custom in Virginia politics for an outgoing governor's nominees to be confirmed with bipartisan support. Many of the nominees had already been serving in their positions for several months. After Democrats responded by threatening to reject all future appointments made by Youngkin, Republicans scaled back their plan and rejected only eleven of Northam's nominees. The rejected nominees had been appointed to the Virginia State Board of Education, the State Air Pollution Control Board, the State Water Control Board, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. According to Republican leadership in the Virginia House of Delegates, vacancies were created on these specific boards so that Youngkin would have greater influence over boards related to his main policy priorities. Democrats retaliated in turn by rejecting four of Youngkin's five nominees to the Virginia Parole Board and one of his nominees to the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board.
According to The Washington Post, conflict continued to escalate throughout the 2022 legislative session between Youngkin and Democratic state legislators as a result of the dispute that had begun with Wheeler's nomination. Youngkin went on to issue more vetoes during that session than any of his immediate predecessors had done during their own first years in office. All of the bills vetoed by Youngkin had been sponsored by Democrats and had passed the legislature with bipartisan support. In several cases, Youngkin vetoed bills sponsored by Democratic state senators while signing identical bills that had been sponsored by Republican delegates. It is common for identical bills to be passed in both chambers of the Virginia legislature, and it is considered standard for governors to sign both versions of such bills. In response to Youngkin's vetoes, The Washington Post wrote, "Typically a governor signs both versions, allowing both sponsors bragging rights for getting a bill passed into law. Longtime state legislators said they could not think of a case in which a governor signed one bill and vetoed its companion." The publication further wrote that "the vetoes were widely seen as payback" for the portion of Youngkin's nominees that had been rejected by Democrats.
The Youngkin administration has drawn notice from both The Washington Post and The Richmond Times-Dispatch for its use of Matthew Moran and Aubrey Layne as unpaid advisors.
Moran has served pro bono in the administration as both Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. He has done so while on paid leave from two political consulting firms; one of these firms "runs public affairs campaigns designed to influence legislators through such things as TV ads and polling", according to The Washington Post. That publication, along with The Richmond Times-Dispatch, has noted that Moran's role in the Youngkin administration has drawn scrutiny for presenting a possible conflict of interest. The former publication wrote that while there is precedent for Virginia governors to have unpaid advisors, "Moran’s situation is especially unusual, because he works full time for the administration with a state title, but without upfront disclosure that he’s a volunteer on someone else’s payroll."
Aubrey Layne, who served as Secretary of Finance in the Northam administration, has served as an unpaid advisor to his successor in the Youngkin administration, Stephen E. Cummings, and has done so while serving as an executive at Sentara Healthcare.
Richard Cullen, Youngkin's counselor, has said that he personally determined both Layne and Moran's roles in the administration to be in compliance with state ethics rules.
During his first week as governor, Youngkin set up an email tipline to receive reports about what he characterized as "divisive practices" in Virginia schools. The tipline was announced in a January 21, 2022 news release focused on Youngkin's executive order banning school mask mandates. Three days later, Youngkin discussed the tipline on a conservative radio show, where he said that parents should use the tipline to report "any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools." Speaking of the practices to be reported, he said on the radio show that his administration would "catalogue it all" and begin "rooting it out".
The tipline was described by The Washington Post as "part of a broader push by Youngkin to identify and root out what he says are elements of critical race theory in the state’s curriculum." The publication further reported that the tipline was viewed by "a teachers union, Democrats in the General Assembly, some parents and other observers...as divisive, authoritarian and unfairly targeting educators." Virginia Republicans have defended the tipline by comparing it to systems that previous governors of the state had set up for people to report violations of business regulations and health protocols. On January 26, a spokesperson for Youngkin tweeted that critics of the tipline had mischaracterized it and described the tipline as "a customary constituent service."
A week after the tipline debuted, CNN reported that the initiative had drawn national attention. Colin Jost derided the tipline on Saturday Night Live during Weekend Update, and John Legend encouraged opponents of the initiative to co-opt the tipline, tweeting, "Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced. We are parents too." Several media outlets reported that critics of Youngkin were spamming the tipline. Describing it as a "snitch line", political scientist Larry Sabato predicted that the tipline would "backfire" on Youngkin. Near the end of January, WSET reported that the tipline had been criticized by "Virginia teachers and the Virginia Education Association...for targeting teachers who are already struggling amid staffing shortages and other challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic", while The Lead with Jake Tapper reported that the tipline could cause retention problems among Virginia educators.
On February 3, Youngkin explained that his administration was "responding" to complaints submitted to the tipline but did not say whether there would be ramifications for teachers mentioned in those complaints. Multiple inquiries by The Virginian-Pilot about how complaints sent to the tipline will be used by the Youngkin administration have gone unanswered. Youngkin has denied FOIA requests to see emails sent to the tipline, citing the "working papers and correspondence" exemption in Virginia's FOIA law. In April, a group of over a dozen media outlets sued the Youngkin administration for access to the emails. The lawsuit argues that the "working papers and correspondence" exemption does not apply in this instance, because access to the emails has not been restricted solely to Youngkin's office (Youngkin has allowed a conservative think tank to access the emails).
During Virginia's 2022 legislative session, a bill concerning elections for the Loudoun County School Board was amended by Youngkin in an effort that, if successful, would have caused elections to be held a year in advance for seven of the board's nine members. A spokesperson for Youngkin described the amendment as an attempt at "holding [the board] to account" for their handling of two sexual assaults that had occurred in that county's school system a year earlier. Opposing the Loudoun County School Board over a variety of issues had been a major focus of Youngkin's gubernatorial campaign. In response to Youngkin's proposed amendment, Democrats, several political scientists, and the county school board itself charged that Youngkin was attempting to subvert the election results that had placed the board members in office. The Washington Post reported that Youngkin's effort had "stunned many state political observers as an intrusion into local election integrity without modern precedent in Virginia." The publication further wrote at the time that the amendment was one of the "more controversial actions" that Youngkin had taken and led to "one of the harshest partisan eruptions" in the Virginia state legislature since the start of Youngkin's term. Legal scholar A.E. Dick Howard argued that the amendment was likely in violation of Virginia's Constitution, which Howard had helped to write in the 1970s. The proposed amendment passed in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates but was defeated in the Democratic-controlled State Senate.
The Washington Post wrote that during his campaign for governor, Youngkin "offered a moderate conservative platform, but also played into hot-button culture wars." About a week after his inauguration, All Things Considered reported that although Youngkin "came to power as a sort of establishment Republican politician, a businessman who spoke to suburban families" and who "gave off...[a] dad-next-door image", his administration quickly began "leaning into a lot of the same themes as [Trump]". Around the same time, The Washington Post reported that Youngkin "caught even some allies off guard" with the partisanship of his administration. As governor, Youngkin subjected many executive branch positions to litmus tests on abortion, critical race theory, and transgender policies.
While running in the Republican primary, Youngkin pledged to "stand up against all of the legislation that has been passed by the Democrats" and to be an opponent of abortion. At that time, he spoke out against gun legislation that Democrats had passed, including expanded background checks, handgun purchase limitations and red flag laws. After winning the nomination, he de-emphasized these social issues, seeking to appeal to suburban swing voters. In July, the National Rifle Association (NRA) declined to endorse Youngkin after he declined to fill out their candidate survey. In September, a Democratic-aligned group began running ads in conservative parts of Virginia, seeking to diminish Republican turnout by attacking his lack of an endorsement from the NRA.
Youngkin describes himself as "pro-life" but says he supports legal access to abortion in cases of saving the pregnant patient's life, rape, and incest. Youngkin criticized the Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans abortions around the sixth week of pregnancy except to save the mother's life. He stated that he preferred a "pain threshold bill" which bans abortion at around twenty weeks. In July 2021, while running for governor, he was caught on a hot mic telling an activist that he would "start going on offense" against abortion rights if elected governor but would largely avoid the topic until then, saying "as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get."
As governor, Youngkin introduced a failed amendment to the state budget, that if adopted by the legislature, would have banned the state government from funding abortion services in cases of severe fetal abnormalities. This would have made Virginia's policy on the public funding of abortion services consistent with the federal Hyde Amendment, which allows it only in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.
In May 2022, following the leaked draft opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Youngkin joined with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in calling on the federal government to intervene against peaceful protests targeting the homes of conservative Supreme Court Justices living in Virginia and Maryland. Commenting on these abortion rights protests, Youngkin said, "We have moments where common sense needs to prevail. And common sense here fully dictates that the ability to, in fact, demonstrate and express your views is protected under the First Amendment. It’s just not appropriate nor is it legal to do it at the residence of justices." Youngkin was criticized by some conservatives for seeking federal action rather than enforcing a state law that bars protesters from targeting private residences. The state law was dismissed as "weak" by Youngkin. The Washington Post described the state law's constitutionality as unclear while noting that "enforcement would be up to local authorities in Fairfax County, not the governor." The publication noted that Youngkin and Hogan both believed the protests to be in violation of "a federal law that forbids demonstrations intended to sway judges on pending cases". Youngkin sought to block the protesters by having a perimeter established around Justice Samuel Alito's neighborhood, but his request was denied by Fairfax County officials, on the grounds that they believed such a perimeter would have been unconstitutional. In June 2022, Youngkin responded to the protests by introducing an amendment to the state budget, that if adopted, would have made it a felony in Virginia to participate in any protest seeking to intimidate or influence a judge. That budget amendment was defeated after receiving bipartisan opposition in the state legislature.
After the final opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson was issued, Youngkin expressed support for the ruling and announced that he would seek a 15-week abortion ban in Virginia. He also picked four state lawmakers to find common ground solutions to reduce abortion in Virginia.
Youngkin supports the COVID-19 vaccination effort but opposes mask and vaccine mandates. He and his family are vaccinated. In his first address to the General Assembly, he emphasized his position on the state's vaccination efforts by stating, "Speaking to you as your governor, I’ll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as your neighbor and a friend, I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine."
Shortly before taking office, Youngkin announced that he would challenge the Biden administration's employer vaccine mandate. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the mandate for certain health care workers but against the mandate for other private employers, Youngkin co-signed a letter with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, asking the Biden administration to exempt rural and state run hospitals from the mandate, citing staffing shortages at many of those hospitals.
While running for governor, Youngkin said that he would model his public school mask policy after that of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by banning local school boards from implementing their own mask mandates. Youngkin reversed this position later in the campaign, saying through his PR team that although he opposed Virginia's statewide public school mask mandate, he would give local school boards the discretion to implement their own mask policies. After winning the election, he re-emphasized his intention to repeal the statewide mandate while still allowing for local mandates. On his first day in office, January 15, 2022, he reversed his position again, signing an executive order that both repealed the statewide mandate and attempted to nullify any local mandates. This executive order was challenged by two lawsuits contending that it was in violation of state law at the time and exceeded Youngkin's constitutional authority. It was also challenged by the ACLU in a lawsuit arguing that the order was discriminatory against medically vulnerable students. Youngkin called on Virginia parents to cooperate with school principals while the lawsuits proceeded. On February 16, 2022, Youngkin signed a bill that made masking optional in all public schools throughout Virginia. The bill passed along mostly party lines and took effect on March 1. The ACLU's lawsuit against the Youngkin administration was decided on March 23, in a ruling that maintains Youngkin's ban on school mask mandates except for in areas frequented by the plaintiffs.
Two other executive actions signed by Youngkin on his first day in office related to his pandemic response policies. One rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees; the other called for a reevaluation of the workplace safety standards that the Northam administration had adopted as a pandemic mitigation strategy. On February 16, 2022, Youngkin convened the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board to vote on whether to revoke those safety standards. A few days before the vote, House Republicans rejected the nominations of two members that had been appointed to the board by Northam; both members were expected to vote against revoking the safety standards. Their nominations were rejected as part of a larger process of expelling Northam appointees from several state boards, which was undertaken by Republicans in response to Democrats defeating Youngkin's nomination of Andrew Wheeler to serve as a cabinet secretary.
The remaining members of the Safety and Health Codes Board voted 7 to 3 in favor of recommending that the safety standards be revoked. Following a public comment period, the board reconvened on March 21 and voted to officially revoke the safety standards. Virginia had been the first state to adopt workplace safety standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the standards, which included a mask mandate for workers in high-risk indoor areas, officially ended on March 23, 2022.
Upon taking office, Youngkin extended a limited state of emergency that had been implemented by the Northam administration ten days earlier to increase hospital capacity and allow medical professionals licensed in other states to practice in Virginia. The extension was originally set to last until February 21, 2022 but has been renewed to last at least through March 22.
In January 2022, the Virginia Department of Health, under Youngkin's authority, became one of the first states to cease efforts at contact tracing every positive case of COVID-19. Health officials with the department explained that the decision was made primarily due to the increased difficulty of contact tracing the omicron variant. These officials further explained that the policy would allow the department to better focus its resources on responding to "outbreaks and cases in high risk settings" and that individuals who test positive should continue to personally notify contacts.
In May 2022, Youngkin announced that on July 5 of that year, he would be scaling back the telework policy for Virginia's executive branch employees, which had been expanded two years earlier by Northam in response to the pandemic. Under Youngkin's policy, those employees can telework one day a week or on a temporary basis with approval from the head of their agency, two days a week with approval from a cabinet secretary, and three or more days a week with approval from Youngkin's chief of staff. Youngkin argued that his policy would lead to increased innovation and improved customer service across state agencies. Democrats criticized Youngkin's policy, arguing that it would endanger state workers amid the ongoing pandemic while causing retention problems for state agencies. They called on Youngkin to maintain Northam's policy until at least after Labor Day, so as to ease pressure on state employees struggling to find childcare over the summer. Youngkin's policy not only rescinds Northam's policy but gives state agencies less discretion to approve telework arrangements than they had held before the pandemic began. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Youngkin's policy diverged from private sector trends favoring telework options and could lead to challenges for state employees in rural areas with particularly long commutes. In early June, the Youngkin administration missed a self-imposed deadline for approving telework requests.
An amendment that Youngkin introduced to the 2022 state budget limited the number of inmates who could qualify for an expanded early release program that was scheduled to begin later that summer. The program allows inmates in Virginia to earn time off their sentences through good behavior credits. It had been expanded through legislation signed in 2020 by Youngkin's predecessor, Ralph Northam, so that Virginia's cap on how many good behavior credits could be earned was raised for most inmates. As this expansion of the program was originally designed, the newly available credits could not be used to reduce sentences for violent crimes but could be used by inmates convicted of violent crimes to reduce any concurrent or consecutive sentences that had been imposed for nonviolent reasons. Youngkin and other Republicans characterized this aspect of the program as an unintentional loophole that needed correcting. Democrats largely disagreed with that characterization. Youngkin's amendment, which was adopted by the General Assembly along mostly party lines, made inmates convicted of violent crimes fully ineligible for the expanded program, meaning that these inmates could not use the newly available credits to reduce even sentences imposed for nonviolent crimes.
Although the expanded early release program was approved by Northam in 2020, it did not take effect until July 1, 2022. Because the newly available credits were made applicable retroactively for anyone who would have earned them earlier in their sentences, about 550 inmates convicted of violent crimes were set to be released once the law took effect in July 2022. Youngkin's amendment was approved a few weeks before these inmates would have been released.
During his campaign for governor, Youngkin frequently said that Virginia's economy was "in the ditch". Some political scientists, such as Mark Rozell, considered this an unusual position, since throughout the campaign, Virginia had low unemployment, a budget surplus, and a AAA bond rating. The state had also been rated that year by CNBC as the Top State for Business. Youngkin argued against the merits of the CNBC rating, stating that it put too much emphasis on inclusivity and noting Virginia's poor ratings in the "cost of living" and "cost of doing business" categories.
The Washington Post noted that more than two months after winning the Republican nomination, Youngkin had "yet to disclose any formal economic plan." One of Youngkin's main proposals at that stage of the race was an elimination of Virginia's individual income tax. According to NPR, this proposal received "criticism from both Democrats and Republicans that doing so would wipe out around 70% of Virginia's General Fund." Before the end of his campaign, Youngkin retracted his proposal to eliminate the tax, calling it "aspirational" and saying, "In Virginia, we can't get rid of income tax, but we sure can try to bring it down."
In late August 2021, Youngkin announced a series of more modest tax cut proposals. These included eliminating the grocery tax, suspending the gas tax increase, offering a one-time rebate on income tax, doubling the standard deduction on income tax, cutting the retirement tax on veterans' income, implementing voter approval for any additional increase to local property taxes, and offering a tax holiday for small businesses. Upon their announcement, the Associated Press called these proposals "the most wide-ranging and detailed look at the priorities of a potential Youngkin administration". If enacted, these proposals would amount to $1.8 billion in one-time tax cuts and $1.4 billion in recurring tax cuts. Youngkin has proposed paying for the tax cuts with the state's $2.6 billion budget surplus. The Washington Post and NPR have both noted that much of the surplus is unavailable for tax cuts, since state law requires that over half of the surplus be devoted to the state's "rainy day" reserve fund, water quality improvement fund, and transportation fund.
As his campaign's senior economic advisor, Youngkin hired Stephen Moore, who had helped oversee significant tax cuts in Kansas several years earlier when Sam Brownback was in office as that state's governor. NPR noted towards the end of the Virginia gubernatorial campaign that Youngkin "sourced much of his fiscal agenda from [Moore]." In response to Moore's hiring, The Washington Post described the Brownback tax cuts as "an experiment widely seen as a failure, leading the state to slash spending for priorities such as education and transportation when revenue dried up". The publication noted that the tax cuts were ultimately repealed "on a bipartisan vote". Youngkin's Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Terry McAuliffe, cited the economic downturn in Kansas as a way to critique Youngkin's economic platform. Moore acknowledged after joining the Youngkin campaign that the Brownback tax cuts had negatively impacted the Kansas economy but argued that they should be perceived as an anomaly, saying that several other states "did really well when they lowered taxes".
In 2022, Youngkin signed a two-year, $165 billion state budget featuring $4 billion in tax cuts. According to The Washington Post, the "centerpiece" of this budget was "a big increase in the standard deduction for personal income tax." Rather than doubling the standard deduction, as Youngkin had proposed, the budget increased it by about 80%, raising it from $4,500 to $8,000 for individuals and from $9,000 to $16,000 for couples filing jointly. The budget included one-time tax rebates and a partial elimination of Virginia's grocery tax, both of which aligned with Northam's own outgoing budget proposals rather than with Youngkin's preferred tax policies. As Northam had proposed, the one-time tax rebates amounted to $250 for individuals and $500 for couples, slightly less than Youngkin's desired $300 for individuals and $600 for couples. Although the final budget enacted Northam and Youngkin's shared goal of eliminating a 1.5% grocery tax that had been levied by the state, Democrats blocked Youngkin's proposal to also eliminate an additional 1% grocery tax levied by Virginia localities. Youngkin's proposal to enact a tax exemption of up to $40,000 a year for military pensions was fully included in the budget. According to The Washington Post, the exemption will be "phased in over several years." Another proposal of Northam's included in the budget was making up to 15% of the earned income tax credit refundable. This policy, which is designed to benefit low-income tax filers, was described by The Richmond-Times Dispatch as "a longtime Democratic priority" and had been opposed by Republicans. It was included in the budget as a compromise between the two parties.
Youngkin has said that he intends to continue efforts begun under his predecessor, Ralph Northam, to modernize the Virginia Employment Commission, which, according to The Washington Post, "struggled with outdated computer systems and a lack of staffing during the heightened demands of the pandemic." On his first day in office, Youngkin signed an executive order calling for a review of the state agency. In March 2022, his administration was awarded a grant from the Biden administration's Labor Department to combat inequities in the Virginia Employment Commission's operations. The grant was made available through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Virginia was among the first states to receive such a grant, because, according to The Washington Post, its application to participate in the program had been one of the "most thorough". Youngkin's administration has not announced its plans for the grant money.
Youngkin has also said that he intends to continue efforts begun under Northam to expand broadband access in Virginia.
Youngkin opposes the gradual minimum wage increase that had been initiated in Virginia by the Northam administration, arguing that the eventual target of $15 dollars an hour will cause the state to "lose jobs". He supports Virginia's right-to-work law and has promised to veto any legislation repealing it. He has also backed the idea of repealing both collective bargaining rights for public employees and the requirement that all public works use project labor agreements.
Youngkin's education platform was identified as the centerpiece of his campaign by much of the national media, and he sought to mobilize voters on the issue by holding Parents Matter rallies. According to Politico, Youngkin "hung his campaign on education". The New York Times wrote that Youngkin's campaign turned Virginia public schools into "a cultural war zone".
Throughout the campaign, Youngkin spoke against what he characterized as the pervasive teaching of critical race theory in the state. Politifact found this characterization of his to be false, saying it found no evidence that critical race theory was part of state curriculum standards and little evidence of it being taught in classrooms. The publication wrote, "Critical race theory is being widely discussed by educators across Virginia. But there's a difference between educators learning about the theory and actually teaching it to students." Critics of Youngkin noted that he sent his own children to private schools where resources promoting critical race theory have been recommended. Youngkin served on the governing board for one of those schools from 2016 until 2019 but has distanced himself from anti-racism initiatives that were adopted by the school.
The Washington Post identified the Loudoun County school system as "ground zero for Youngkin's victory", citing the widespread activism among parents in the county who opposed progressive school policies. Following two sexual assaults that occurred in Loudoun County schools, Youngkin called for campus police to be stationed at every school in Virginia, and after winning the election, he directed the state's Attorney General, Jason Miyares, to investigate the Loudoun County school system's handling of those assaults. Initially, the perpetrator of the assaults was characterized as gender fluid; although this was later denied by the perpetrator's lawyer, conservative media coverage focused on this aspect of the assaults, and the news story fueled opposition to bathroom policies that had been newly adopted in Virginia to accommodate transgender students. Youngkin's Democratic opponent in the election, Terry McAuliffe, said that the assaults were being exploited during the campaign as "a transphobic dog whistle".
A major subject of opposition among Republicans during the campaign was a state law signed in 2020 by Youngkin's predecessor, Ralph Northam, requiring that all Virginia public schools adopt protections for transgender students. Youngkin himself has been critical of these protections. While running for governor, he supported teachers who refused to refer to their students by preferred pronouns and argued against allowing transgender girls to play on girls' sports teams.
Youngkin's first official action as governor was to sign an executive order banning Virginia schools from teaching critical race theory. The order also bans critical race theory from teacher diversity trainings and any other materials produced by the Virginia Department of Education. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the executive order "targets various initiatives...including the EdEquityVa Initiative, a program aimed at promoting cultural competency in classrooms, higher teacher diversity, and decreasing suspension rates for Black students."
This same executive order cancels the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative, a program that had been developed and proposed by the Northam administration in an effort to both close the racial achievement gap and better equip students with modern job skills. According to The Virginian-Pilot, some critics of the program viewed it as "a dumbing down of standards". Youngkin called the program a "left-wing takeover of public education", and many conservatives claimed that it would have eliminated advanced high school math classes - a claim that Youngkin gave prominence to during his campaign. James Lane, Virginia Superintendent at the time, and NPR, both disputed this characterization of the program. The Virginia Math Pathways Initiative would have prioritized data science and data analytics over calculus while still offering students the opportunity to enroll in calculus at an accelerated pace. Although education officials within the Northam administration explored the potential benefits of detracking students prior to the 11th grade, no plans to do so were ever adopted, and in April 2021, those officials explained that the Virginia Math Pathways Initiative was not designed to eliminate advanced math classes at any grade level. Shortly after Youngkin and other conservatives first began speaking out against the Virginia Math Pathways Initiative, The Washington Post reported that the actual nature of the program had been "obscured...[by] prominent Virginians and copious coverage from right-wing news outlets" as "outrage built online" among those opposed to it.
In early April 2022, Youngkin signed a bill allowing school parents throughout Virginia to review and opt their children out of any educational material containing "sexually explicit content"; any opted out student would be provided with alternative material. This is the first statewide law in the nation allowing for parental review of sexually explicit content in school curriculum. Democrats have criticized the bill for taking control over education away from local school systems and have argued that its definition of "sexually explicit content" is "overly broad". The bill passed along mostly party lines. A similar bill, known as the "Beloved Bill", was vetoed by McAuliffe in both 2016 and 2017. That bill, which had originated when a conservative activist took issue with the inclusion of Beloved in her high school senior son's AP English class, became one of the focal points of Virginia's 2021 gubernatorial election, and reviving the bill was identified by The Washington Post as "one of the key promises" of Youngkin's campaign.
Youngkin and McAuliffe both campaigned on increasing the education budget in Virginia, where teacher salaries have perpetually lagged behind the national average. During the campaign, McAuliffe proposed investing $2 billion annually in education and increasing teacher pay in Virginia to above the national average, while Youngkin's own proposals included $100 million a year for raising teacher salaries, $200 million for improvements to school infrastructure, and over $1 billion for expanding school choice programs. McAuliffe criticized Youngkin for not releasing budget details until late in the campaign and argued that spending on education in Virginia could be threatened by the extent of Youngkin's tax cut proposals.
After the election, outgoing governor Ralph Northam proposed implementing a 10% salary increase for Virginia teachers over two years; when asked, Youngkin did not specify whether he agreed with the proposal but reiterated that he shared the general goal of raising teacher pay.
While running for governor, Youngkin voiced support for expanding charter schools in the state and set a goal of adding at least twenty during his term. After the election, The Richmond-Times Dispatch reported that Youngkin's actual goal for charter schools would be to increase the number in Virginia "to match North Carolina, which has more than 200." Only seven charter schools currently exist in Virginia, one of the lowest amounts in the country, and Youngkin has backed proposed legislation that would shift the authority to approve new charter schools from local school boards to newly created "regional charter school divisions". These divisions would have nine voting members, eight appointed by the Virginia State Board of Education, and one appointed by local school boards within the region.
The state budget that Youngkin signed for 2022 includes $100 million for re-establishing lab schools in Virginia. These K-12 public schools, which are separate from charter schools, had previously existed in the state and had continued to be allowed under Virginia law before Youngkin came into office, but none remained operating in the state by the start of Youngkin's term. Previous lab schools in Virginia had been established as partnerships with institutions of higher learning; only public colleges and universities with teacher training programs were allowed to enter into these partnerships. An amendment that Youngkin introduced to the 2022 state budget removed the requirement that all lab schools in the state act as teacher training programs. It also opened lab school partnerships to be formed with community colleges or certain private universities. Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears had to break a tie vote in the State Senate for this budget amendment to be approved by the General Assembly. Youngkin has additionally advocated for allowing private businesses to enter into lab school partnerships. He has said that lab schools could be either newly established or converted out of existing schools and has supported legislation that would direct the Virginia State Board of Education to "give substantial preference" to lab school applications filed by historically black colleges or universities. Under that legislation, the same preference would be given to applications seeking to establish lab schools in "underserved communities".
Youngkin supports revising how Virginia public schools are funded, so that per pupil funding for any students attending lab schools in the state would go to the institutions operating the schools attended by those students instead of going to the public school boards for the districts where those students reside. An amendment proposed by Youngkin for the 2022 state budget would have enacted this plan but was not adopted by the General Assembly. Although the Virginia Education Association and the Editorial Board of The Free Lance–Star have both supported Youngkin's goal of re-establishing lab schools in Virginia, they have also both criticized Youngkin's plan for redirecting per pupil funding away from local school boards, noting that because Virginia law allows lab schools to enroll students from anywhere in the state, the plan could lead to decreased funding for certain school districts.
In April 2022, Youngkin signed House Bill 741 into law mandating all public schools in Virginia to create detailed digital floor plans of their buildings. The law also provides $6.5 million dollars to schools to create these floor plans.
In June 2022, shortly after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Youngkin stressed his support of placing school resource officers in every school in Virginia.
Asked if he accepts the scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, Youngkin said he does not know what causes climate change and that the cause is irrelevant. He supports climate change adaptation efforts such as building additional seawalls. While running for governor, Youngkin said he would not have signed Virginia's Clean Economy Act (which calls for Virginia's carbon emissions to reach net zero by 2050) because he believes it would increase utility prices. Youngkin is in favor of what he calls an "all of the above approach" to energy, saying that he supports both renewable energy sources and natural gas.
After winning the election, Youngkin said that he would use an executive action to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional carbon cap-and-trade market. Youngkin has called the initiative a "carbon tax" and has stated that leaving the initiative would save ratepayers an average of about $50 a year. Democrats have countered that leaving the initiative would cut off a source of revenue for the state that raises hundreds of millions of dollars a year; this revenue is used for flood control and to provide low income ratepayers with energy assistance. On his first day in office, Youngkin signed an executive order calling for a reevaluation of Virginia's membership in the initiative. The Washington Post noted that because Virginia entered the initiative through legislative action, Youngkin may lack the legal authority to withdraw from the initiative without legislative approval. The publication theorized that this legal limitation may have been why Youngkin ultimately ordered a reevaluation of the initiative rather than a withdrawal.
In his 2022 address to the General Assembly, Youngkin called for the state to better protect against pollution of the James River, voiced support for ongoing efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay, and proposed that the state establish a Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority to combat rising sea levels. Later that year, Youngkin opposed the scope of a bill that had been designed to improve Virginia's flood preparedness. According to The Washington Post, Youngkin attempted to "gut" the bill by amending it but was overruled by a unanimous vote by the State Senate.
In April 2022, Youngkin issued an executive order that rescinded former governor Ralph Northam's order to ban single-use plastics at executive branch state agencies. Although the replacement order issued by Youngkin also directed state agencies to develop a plan for increasing recycling in Virginia and reducing food waste by companies in the state, environmental groups criticized the order, claiming that recycling alone without measures to curb the sale of single-use plastic is "a clear step in the wrong direction that will result in irreversible damage."
During Virginia's 2022 legislative session, Youngkin vetoed bills that would have set a three year statue of limitations on the collection of medical debt and prohibited health insurance companies from charging higher premiums for tobacco use. Both bills had passed the state legislature with broad bipartisan support. Youngkin explained his veto of the latter bill by claiming that such a policy would have caused higher costs for consumers. According to The Washington Post, this claim conflicted with national studies showing that the policy would have decreased costs for consumers. The publication also noted that Youngkin's veto of that bill was in opposition to "the unanimous recommendation of a bipartisan study commission".
An amendment that Youngkin introduced to the 2022 state budget took $10 million over two years that had been planned as financial aid for undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education in Virginia and used the money instead to increase financial aid for students attending Virginia's historically black colleges and universities. The amendment was passed by the General Assembly along mostly party lines. According to The Washington Post, half of the money reallocated by the amendment will be "used to supplement in-state student aid at Norfolk State and Virginia State universities, which are both public institutions" and the other half will be used to "increase Virginia Tuition Assistance Grants, a form of aid for residents attending private colleges and universities, to $7,500 from $5,000 a year for students enrolled in historically Black institutions." Lamont Bagby, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, condemned the amendment, calling it the wrong way to help HBCUs. Several Democrats characterized the amendment as an effort to "pit" two different disadvantaged student groups against each other. The Richmond Times-Dispatch noted that Youngkin could have drawn from "up to $50 million in unappropriated money" in state revenue to assist Virginia's HBCUs, rather than taking money that had been initially allocated to assist undocumented immigrant students.
Further information: Glenn Youngkin § Education#Cultural issues and curriculum
Youngkin personally opposes same-sex marriage, but has said he would not interfere with the issue as governor. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said that he considers same-sex marriage "legally acceptable" and that "as governor, [he] would support [legal same-sex marriage]." He has maintained the governor's LGBTQ+ Advisory Board but has been criticized by members of that board for what they have described as his lack of meaningful support for the LGBTQ+ community.
In June 2022, Youngkin expressed some support for LGBTQ+ Pride Month; he hosted "a private Pride reception at the Capitol" but did not invite any of Virginia's openly LGBTQ+ state legislators to the event, which was boycotted by all but one member of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board and by other LGBTQ+ groups. Those who boycotted the event did so because they saw it as inconsistent with Youngkin's policy stances, which they considered to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community. That same month, Youngkin hosted the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBTQ+ Republican group, at the Governor's Mansion. Youngkin rejected a request from the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board to issue a proclamation recognizing Pride Month. His decision to hold a Pride event has been condemned by the socially conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, which wrote that Youngkin's choice to celebrate Pride Month "dismays many people of faith".
In 2022, Youngkin proposed an increase in criminal penalties for individuals found in possession of more than two ounces of marijuana, from a $25 fine to criminal misdemeanor penalties. Under Youngkin's proposal, possession of more than two ounces would be a Class 2 misdemeanor, while possession of more than six ounces would be a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possession of more than a pound is classified as a felony under Virginia law, which would remain the same under Youngkin's proposal.
When Virginia legalized limited marijuana possession under the Northam administration, it became the only US state not to have misdemeanor penalties for possession over the legal amount. Youngkin's proposal to introduce such penalties in place of the current law's simple fine was inspired by a recommendation made in 2021 by the state legislature's nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Before Youngkin made his proposal, the Democratic-controlled State Senate had passed a bill during the 2022 legislative session that would have made possessing more than four ounces of marijuana a Class 3 misdemeanor. That bill, which also would have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in Virginia, was rejected by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
Youngkin has also proposed raising the legal age for purchasing CBD products in Virginia to 21 and banning products that contain Delta-8 THC, which is described by The Washington Post as "a hemp-derived compound that has become popular for its similarity to Delta-9, the main compound in marijuana that gives consumers a high.
As governor, Youngkin has continued the work of restoring voting rights to former felons, an effort that began under Governor Bob McDonnell and then intensified under McDonnell's immediate successors, McAuliffe and Northam. Virginia is one of only eleven states that does not automatically allow former felons to vote by the end of their sentences. An amendment to the state constitution that would have established automatic voting rights restoration for released felons in Virginia passed the legislature during Northam's final year in office, but amendments to the state constitution must be passed during two consecutive legislative sessions before they can be voted on by the public in a referendum, and Republicans in the House of Delegates voted against the amendment during Youngkin's first year in office.
Before taking office, Youngkin lived in Great Falls, Virginia, with his wife Suzanne and their four children.
As of September 2021, Youngkin had an estimated net worth of $440 million; he contributed $20 million of his own money to his race for governor. Although he said that he would release summaries of his tax returns before the election, he did not release them until after the election and has never released his actual tax returns. The summaries have not been independently verified. As governor, he has placed some, but not all, of his financial holdings into a blind trust. The assets that he has not placed into a blind trust include stock in several companies that operate in Virginia. Youngkin has said that he will donate his entire gubernatorial salary, $175,000 a year, to charities. In April 2022, he announced that he would donate his salary for the first quarter of that year to the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program, an organization devoted to helping first responders who have experienced trauma.
As a college basketball player Youngkin's height was listed as 6 feet 7 inches; he now gives his height as 6 feet 5 inches.
In early 2022, Youngkin received an honorary degree from the College of William and Mary.
Youngkin and his wife helped found Holy Trinity Church, which met initially in their basement in McLean, Virginia. The Youngkins set up a private foundation which owns the property where the church stands and a farm in Middleburg, Virginia that serves as a Christian retreat. Holy Trinity describes itself as a "non-denominational church with Anglican roots and a contemporary charismatic expression."
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