A busy and newsmaking first week has Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin surprising and pleasing Republicans, while Democrats lament a changing of the guard in their state.
Youngkin has come in with sweeping executive orders, some contrary to laws already on the books in the state, but he is proving to be more bold like Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis than liberal like Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan.
"I was wondering if he would be more like DeSantis or Larry Hogan, but he really started with the culture wars, and, I think, in doing so, he has lost some political capital that he might have had with the Democrats," longtime Richmond political analyst Robert Holsworth told The Washington Post.
But Youngkin does not govern for Democrats, he governs for Virginia, and state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, told the Post he is "off to a good start," adding he is more like DeSantis, "but he's pleasant about it."
"The thing that impresses me about him is he's a great salesman," Hanger added. "Of course, he'll have to at some point be realistic about the politics of the moment and work for what's doable."
Democrats suggest Youngkin's moves are to make national headlines.
"I'm suspicious that a number of issues he picked seem to rate more to a national movement, and he picked staff more related to national efforts than to Virginia," Del. Ken R. Plum, D-Fairfax, told the Post, noting Youngkin's Cabinet picks including those outside of Virginia.
But Axiom Strategies consultant Kristin Davison, who advises Youngkin, told the Post that the national attention is "all organic."
"He's not doing anything to pump it up," she added. "He's very, very cognizant of focusing on [the legislative] session.
"He's not even focused on the national front. That doesn't mean the national front isn't focusing on him."
Virginia House Majority Leader Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, said on the floor this week, Youngkin's moves "should come as no surprise to anyone who’s paying attention" because "he's doing exactly what he campaigned on and what he said he would do on the campaign trail," adding Republicans are "not going to apologize for that."
"November's election was a call for change in the commonwealth, and, like a lot of voters across Virginia, I'm excited to see that our governor has hit the ground running on Day 1," Kilgore told the Post.
Youngkin signed an executive order calling for parents and not schools to dictate mask mandates and curriculum to students, including "inherently divisive concepts" like Critical Race Theory.
Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.
But the mask mandate ban will require a legal fight, as Youngkin is facing lawsuits to keep them in force.
The order was "in direct conflict with an existing state law," according to former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who called Youngkin's move creating "unnecessary controversy, confusion, and litigation."
But quick, decisive moves are needed, former GOP Gov. George Allen told the Post.
"You don't have time to dawdle," he said.
"To the extent he could do anything on Day One, he's done it, and I think that's fantastic," he added.
"I feel that Virginia's getting liberated, I really do, from all these restrictions on free people and free enterprise. It's invigorating."
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