Oct 25, 2021 - Podcasts

Why Virginia's governor race is so closely watched

It’s the final week of the governor’s race in Virginia between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. It’s a huge test for Democrats as they try to hold onto this must-have state.

  • Plus, the Supreme Court decides to hear three abortion cases this term.
  • And, new FBI data shows how border towns are safer than other American cities.

Guests: Axios' Fadel Allassan, Oriana Gonzalez and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday October 25th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: The Supreme Court decides to hear three abortion cases this term. Plus, new FBI data shows how border towns are safer than other American cities.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: the national implications of the Virginia governor’s race.

It’s the final week of the closely-watched governor’s race in Virginia between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. This is a huge test for Democrats as they try to hold onto this must-have state. So much so that two former presidents are involved in this race. Former President Obama stumped for McAuliffe on Friday. And Former President Trump has repeatedly endorsed Youngkin. Axios’ associate editor Fadel Allassan is with me now to explain what this race means for the whole country. Hey Fadel!


NIALA: Fadel, first of all, let's start with Democrat Terry McAuliffe. What strategy is he using to get people to the polls?

FADEL: Terry McAuliffe has been trying to get some of the same backlash that helped Democrats win their last two elections in 2017 and 2019, by painting his opponent, Glenn Youngkin as an extension of Trump. And Youngkin on the flip side, he wants to be seen in a way as a pro-Trump candidate, because that helps draw Republican turnout, but not so much so that it helps the backlash that helped Democrats win big in the state in the last few elections.

NIALA: Is it accurate to say that Glenn Youngkin is very pro-Trump or very Trumpy as Terry McAuliffe is painting him out to be?

FADEL: It's complicated because like, for example, some of the more pro-Trump figures like Steve Bannon had a rally in Richmond recently, that was all about election integrity. And you know, this idea that the election was stolen and Youngkin wasn't there at all. But at the same time, he made it a central part of his campaign early on in the primary, saying that he would start a task force to help election integrity in Virginia. He since said that Trump did not win the 2020 election, but he hasn't been very forceful on it. And that's something that McAuliffe has tried to seize on.

NIALA: What are the issues that McAuliffe and Youngkin are aligning themselves with in this race?

FADEL: This is the first time really where you've seen some of the more cultural issues break out to the forefront of the governor's race. So the idea of critical race theory being taught in Virginia schools, which it's not, that's something that Youngkin has pushed forward and McAuliffe has hit back saying, you know, he's being a conspiracy theorist.

NIALA: What's at stake here?

FADEL: Republicans haven't won in Virginia in over a decade, in a statewide race. If you ask them, they feel like this is their chance. And if you look at the polling, it seems like it's going to be a lot closer this year. What we're watching for is whether Democrats continue to win seats in the legislature, keep the governorship, or whether Republicans can finally break through, which would kind of show that the margins that Democrats have been winning by, in recent years, was a bit of a mirage. Perhaps because President Trump was in office and that drew out voters in the state against him.

NIALA: Fadel Allassan is an associate editor at Axios based in Arlington, Virginia. Thanks, Fadel.

FADEL: Thank you.


NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with the Supreme Court’s docket firming up on abortion rights cases.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today, I'm Niala Boodhoo. The Supreme Court on Friday, agreed to hear two cases challenging the Texas abortion law that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy. And that means the Supreme Court’s now going to hear three major abortion cases this term that could lead to changes in abortion rights across the country, even possibly overturning Roe vs. Wade. Axios’ Oriana Gonzalez has been tracking these cases and joins us now to catch us up. Hey Oriana!

ORIANA: Hi Niala.

NIALA: Can you tell us what the three cases are that have made their way to the Supreme Court this term?

ORIANA: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases a week from today, one from the Department of Justice and one from abortion providers in Texas, both of which are challenging a law in Texas that bans abortion as soon as six weeks into pregnancy. The Supreme Court allowed for the Texas law to remain in place because it said that there were too many procedural questions to answer before they decided to do that. And precisely the two cases on the Texas law are answering those procedural questions. The third case is actually happening a month after on December 1st. It's a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks.

NIALA: And do we know what procedural questions the Supreme Court is going to be looking at here and what they're specifically going to be trying to determine?

ORIANA: The Texas law is different from any other anti-abortion bill that has been passed in recent years because it's not the state that is enforcing the law, it's the general public. The state is encouraging the general public to sue providers that help people get abortions. And in the abortion providers case, that's exactly what the court is going to be looking at. Can states kind of give enforcement powers to the general public in order to avoid judicial review of a specific law.

NIALA: And what about the Mississippi case? What are they going to be looking at there?

ORIANA: In the Mississippi case, that's where we're getting into the nitty gritty of abortion. The Mississippi Attorney General’s actually asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe V. Wade. So in this one is where we're going to specifically be seeing whether states have the authority to ban abortion, which is what Roe V. Wade and Planned Parenthood V. Casey, decided. So those two cases are Supreme Court cases that decided that states cannot ban abortions before viability.

NIALA: If that does happen, where does that leave states and their abortion restrictions or states that have passed laws in anticipation of Roe vs. Wade being overturned at the federal level?

ORIANA: The first two cases while they are procedural questions, if they succeed, they can technically be used as an argument to say that abortion is not allowed. So we have to remember that the Supreme Court could effectively take away the right to having an abortion without specifically getting rid of Roe. So if they say in the abortions providers case that federal courts have absolutely no power over state laws, like the Texas one, then that gives states an easy avenue to get around Roe and Planned Parenthood v Casey.

NIALA: Axios’ Oriana Gonzalez. Thank you, Oriana.

ORIANA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: We've talked about how much the homicide rate has gone up in the U.S., especially last year, but new F.B.I. statistics show some cities along the Southern U.S. border had a murder rate 10 times lower than Northern cities of the same size, challenging stereotypes of these border towns are dangerous places. That's based on reporting from Russell Contreras, justice and race reporter at Axios. Hey Russell.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Great to be with you.

NIALA: Before we get into border communities, can you remind us what happened overall with the homicide rate last year?

RUSSELL: Well the homicide rate last year reached a six decade high. We don't know exactly why the rate went up, but yet a lot of cities and urban areas, especially, saw a jump in murders.

NIALA: What does the data show about what's happening in border towns versus the rest of America?

RUSSELL: While there was a jump in the homicide rate, it's still not nearly the same amount that were in urban enclaves. In fact, we found that places like Del Rio, Texas had a very low murder rate compared to cities the same size. Its murder rate was 2.8. If you take a look at a city of a similar size, say Lima, Ohio, they had a homicide rate of 32.9. So what the data shows, basically, is that border towns are a lot safer, and you're less likely to get shot and killed.

NIALA: Now, Russ, you're talking about the murder rate. What do we know about crime rates in general? Because again, speaking to the stereotype that these border towns are dangerous.

RUSSELL: The violent crime rate also is lower than the national average. And it is also much lower than cities the same size of these border communities. This has been going on for years. It's been overlooked. Places like El Paso, Texas has a much lower violent crime rate than someplace like Memphis or Dallas. This kind of contradicts the myth as the border being an outrageous and chaotic region, a place that needs to be tamed. In fact, these communities are some of the safest in the country.

NIALA: Russ Contreras, Axios reporter based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thank you Russell.

RUSS: Pleasure to be with you.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios.com or reach out to me on Twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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