The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

McAuliffe releases his first general-election TV ad in Virginia governor’s race

From left: Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe. (From left: AP Photo/Steve Helber; Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP) (AP Photo/Steve Helber; Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
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A previous version of this article said Glenn Youngkin had released two ads attacking Terry McAuliffe hours after the June 8 Democratic primary. One of those ads directly attacked McAuliffe, while another included a thinly veiled reference to McAullife as a tired politician. The article has been updated.

Glenn Youngkin, the wealthy GOP nominee for Virginia governor, no longer has the state’s airwaves to himself.

Weeks after his campaign bankrolled an early-bird television pitch totaling millions in ad buys on radio and television, his Democratic rival, former governor Terry McAuliffe, countered with the first TV spot of his general election campaign.

The 30-second ad, which begins airing Thursday, highlights McAuliffe’s efforts to boost the state’s economy and seeks to tie Youngkin to former president Donald Trump.

“When I was governor last time, I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” McAuliffe says in the ad. “But let me be clear, Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.”

Democrat McAuliffe reports raising twice as much money as GOP rival Youngkin during June in Virginia governor’s race

Youngkin, a former private equity executive who has so far loaned his campaign $12 million, came out swinging last month with an aggressive blitz on radio and television that was well ahead of schedule compared to past gubernatorial contests in Virginia.

The governor’s race four years ago did not see either candidate — Republican Ed Gillespie or the eventual winner, Democrat Ralph Northam — unveil general-election TV ads until late July, a more typical time frame for initial television ad buys.

But just hours after McAuliffe was declared the winner of the June 8 Democratic primary, Youngkin launched an attack ad against him and another with a thinly veiled reference to McAuliffe as a tired politician. The former governor, meanwhile, has stuck to less-expensive digital ads in the six weeks since the primary.

Campaign finance filings show Youngkin spent $5.3 million between May 28 and June 30, compared to McAuliffe’s nearly $1.8 million during that time.

But according to those filings, McAuliffe has $9 million on hand to spend — and he appears to be using it. The McAuliffe campaign’s new ad, “Because of You,” is airing in television markets in Richmond, the Hampton Roads region and D.C.

With clips from previous campaign appearances, it seeks to push the message that McAuliffe, who served as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018, worked across the aisle to create jobs and invest billions in infrastructure and education following the Great Recession.

In response to a request for comment, Youngkin’s campaign pointed to a tweet from the GOP candidate accusing McAuliffe of being “a partisan attack dog his whole life” and saying the Democrat “bragged about causing gridlock.”

Is Virginia an economic success or ‘in the ditch?’ Depends on which candidate you ask.

On the campaign trail, McAuliffe has often spoken about reducing unemployment and creating 200,000 jobs during his term in office. He has said he’s seeking a new term to further boost economic progress in Virginia, countering Youngkin’s claims that the state’s economy is “in the ditch.”

In a race that some are interpreting as a political referendum for the post-Trump era — Virginia is one of only two states electing a new governor this year — McAuliffe has not been shy about linking his general election opponent with the former president.

McAuliffe’s ad closes with a radio interview with Youngkin from May, in which the Republican says: “President Trump represents so much of why I’m running.”

“Well you know what, folks,” McAuliffe counters in a voice-over, “I’m running because of you.”