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President Obama campaigns for Virginia Democrats in Richmond

Person speaks into microphones
Former President Barrack Obama campaigns in Richmond on Saturday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Former President Barack Obama was in Richmond Saturday throwing his support behind Terry McAuliffe’s campaign. The president also endorsed 21 Democrats running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the upcoming election. 

McAuliffe was governor from 2014-2018 and served as chairman of HIlary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008.

McAuliffe’s opponent, Republican Glenn Youngkin, is a businessman and a newcomer to politics.

Obama spoke to a crowd outdoors on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, encouraging voters to support McAullife and praising his record on voting rights, abortion access and fighting climate change.

“I believe you right here in Virginia are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we’re not going to indulge in our worst instincts,” Obama said. “We’re not going to go back to the chaos that did so much damage. We’re going to move forward, with people like Terry leading the way.”

The former president criticized Youngkin and other Republicans for clinging to conspiracies about the 2020 election results and using critical race theory as a wedge issue.

“We are trying to recover from a global pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans, that shut down thousands of small businesses and put millions out of work. We don’t have time to be wasting on these phony, trumped up culture wars,” Obama said.

McAuliffe pledges to create high paying jobs, raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 and make childcare and healthcare more affordable.

“As I said on day one of my campaign, I am going to make sure that every Virginia receives a world-class education. I promise you that,” McAuliffe said. “And folks, I know we can do it, because I did it before.”

McAuliffe said he can work with “reasonable” Republicans to get it done.

“Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. I call him Donald Trump in khakis,” McAuliffe joked. 

Democrats took control of the General Assembly in 2019 and swiftly advanced a progressive agenda — passing gun safety measures, legalizing marijuana and making it easier to vote among other changes.

Youngkin’s railed against vaccine requirements and mask mandates. He wants to ban critical race theory in the classroom and cut taxes and regulations, which he says will shore up hundreds of thousands of jobs in Virginia. He says Democrats have made Virginians less safe and pledged to oust the state’s parole board — which has been criticized for releasing people from prison who had been convicted of violent crimes.

Youngkin’s team was in Hanover Saturday morning for an early-vote rally followed by a meet-and-greet at McLeans Restaurant in downtown Richmond in the afternoon. A mobile billboard circled the McAuliffe event displaying graphics criticizing the former governor. 

There’s about a week left before the November election when Virginians will choose a new governor and lieutenant governor and decide on races for attorney general and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates. More than 600,000 Virginians have already  voted early this year, compared to about 200,000 in the last gubernatorial election.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.