Fact-checking Biden's claim about Virginia governor's race

Posted November 15, 2021 11:22 a.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2021 6:01 p.m. EST

President Joe Biden recently flubbed Virginia history while trying to avoid blame for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s loss to Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election.

"No governor in Virginia has ever won when...he or she is the same party as the sitting president," Biden, a Democrat, said during a Nov. 3 news conference.

No doubt, it’s been a very reliable trend for 44 years that Virginians in their odd-year gubernatorial races elect the candidate from the opposite party of the president.

Usually, there’s some dissatisfaction with the incumbent president that plays a role in the gubernatorial election. And the party that lost the presidential election a year earlier is often highly motivated for the gubernatorial race.

But the trend is not etched in stone.

McAuliffe bucked it in 2013 when he was elected governor while Democrat Barack Obama was in the White House.

You have to go back to 1973 to find the previous time it happened. Republican Richard Nixon was president and Mills Godwin, a longtime Democrat who defected to the GOP, was elected governor.

In 1969, while Nixon was in the first year of his presidency, Linwood Holton became the first Republican to win Virginia’s governorship in 100 years.

Until 1969, Virginia had been dominated since the end of Reconstruction by a segregationist Democratic Party that won 21 straight gubernatorial elections dating to 1885.

Eleven times during that span, they were elected with fellow Democrats holding the presidency.

PolitiFact ruling

PolitiFact: False

Biden said, "No governor in Virginia has ever won when...he or she is the same party as the sitting president."

He’s wrong. Although it’s been extremely rare in the last 44 years for Virginia to elect a governor of the president’s party, it did happen in 2013. And it was quite common prior to 1977.

We rate Biden’s statement False.

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