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Conservative Republican: Youngkin win shows GOP must become ‘party of parents’

A conservative Republican is pushing for the GOP to become the “party of parents” after Republican Glenn Youngkin won Virginia’s gubernatorial race, which saw education take center stage as a key issue among voters.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a coalition of conservative Republicans, on Tuesday sent a memo to the group that said the top lesson learned from Youngkin’s projected victory in the Old Dominion over former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was that the GOP “can and must become the party of parents.”

Education became a key issue in the intense off-year election, with the two candidates sparring about how involved parents should be in the school system.

The issue skyrocketed after the Sept. 29 debate, when McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” sparking outrage among Republicans. Youngkin, meanwhile, consistently advocated for parents to have more direct control over their children’s education.

The issue ended up being top of mind for Virginia voters. According to CNN’s exit polls, 24 percent of voters said education was the most important issue facing the commonwealth, which was the second-highest subject after the economy and jobs at 33 percent.

Banks said Youngkin’s victory exposed “real energy from parents that we need to understand,” adding that Republican Study Committee has been working to develop an agenda focused on education that will “fight for and empower parents.”

He listed 12 ideas the group is working with, including rescinding President Biden’s Title IX guidance, promoting a historical curriculum that is focused on the success and faults of the United States’ founding, passing legislation to ensure that military schools are not utilizing critical race theory and approving a bill that would ensure that parents have access to the curriculum their children are being taught in the classroom.

The congressman also listed education issues that parents across the U.S. are “fed up about,” including schools closing because of “radical” teachers unions, mask mandates for students, transgender policies in schools that “endanger girls and undermine the accomplishments of girls playing sports” and critical race theory being “pushed onto their children.”

“Parents brought real energy in Virginia and we would be wise to listen and seek to understand their concerns,” Banks wrote in the memo. “Those concerns cannot be addressed only with policies we traditionally associate with ‘education.’”

In addition to the importance of education, Banks said Youngkin’s win in Virginia shows that mandates must be ended, law enforcement should be supported and the party should continue to raise awareness regarding “the failures of the Biden economy.”

Major news outlets and wires called the Virginia gubernatorial race at around 12:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, after Youngkin took an early lead as results started trickling in. With just over 95 percent of the vote in, Youngkin was leading McAuliffe by roughly 67,000 votes, according to results from The Associated Press.

Youngkin spoke about education in his victory speech early Wednesday morning, telling the crowd, “On Day One, we’re going to work. We’re going to restore excellence in our schools. We will invest the largest education budget in the history of the commonwealth.”

“We’re going to invest in teachers, new facilities, special education. We’re going to introduce choice within our public school system. How about that? Choice within the public school system,” he added.

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