Nov 5, 2021 - News

How Glenn Youngkin's win will impact the D.C. region

Photo: Carlos Bernate/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin will govern from Richmond, but how he approaches everything from Metro funding to job creation may impact our region more than any of his predecessors.

Why it matters: The pandemic has accelerated cooperation between governments across the DMV, meaning the Republican’s agenda could be felt well beyond the boundaries of the Old Dominion.

  • A political newcomer, Youngkin has roots here: he is the former CEO of the D.C.-based Carlyle Group and lives in affluent Great Falls. He joins Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as the second top Republican leader in the region.
  • Hogan and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have already signaled they want to work together on transportation issues and the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

State of play: In our deep-blue metro area, some clues from Youngkin's campaign have already alarmed northern Virginia leaders that his promised tax cuts will spell disaster for their budgets.

  • On the other hand, the business community is enthusiastic that a financier could be a boon for local industry.

What they're saying: Unknowns abound among politicians and business leaders about his plans.

  • "I really don’t know anything about Mr. Youngkin," Bowser told reporters on Wednesday. "What’s important is that we have a strong national capital region."
  • Jack McDougle, who leads the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said he is optimistic about Youngkin’s pledges for a "vibrant business community and really strong schools system."
  • As for Youngkin’s upset win, "I think a lot of people are still absorbing" what the governor-elect may prioritize, added McDougle, who said he only met Youngkin briefly in a region known for its grip-and-grin circuit.

Zoom in: In Fairfax, where nearly two-thirds of voters went for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, county board chair Jeff McKay is fast to list his concerns.

  • Youngkin’s promise to scrap taxes on groceries would leave a $60 million gap in the county budget, McKay said, removing half of the funding source for its public schools.
  • And he said Youngkin’s talk of lowering gas prices may hint at a push to eliminate northern Virginia’s gas tax, which helps fund Metro.
  • "How do we pay for these projects? How do we fill the holes in our budgets that are being proposed?" McKay asked.

For Youngkin's part, in his victory speech in Chantilly, he promised to deliver the largest education budget in state history.

  • He also won't be able to dismiss the region as "The Swamp" — as his backer former President Trump so often does — since its booming construction, cybersecurity, and skilled industries power the Old Dominion economy.
  • His campaign press team didn’t return a request for comment.

Yes, but: A divided government in Richmond — the GOP will likely have a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates, but Democrats control the Senate — will complicate Republican attempts to roll back recent reforms and pass sweeping tax reform.

  • "I don’t think we’re looking at a big cultural change here," said Matt de Ferranti, chair of the Arlington County board of supervisors, which has adopted the state’s new clean energy goals.
  • Julie Coons, the head of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said she sees support for expansions of the American Legion Memorial Bridge and Metro system as key to Virginia remaining the top state for business.
  • Having spoken to Youngkin previously, she said, "we would expect that the governor-elect would continue to support those investments."

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