Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin sparred during the second and final debate of Virginia’s governor’s race on Tuesday, but it was one comment on schools by McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, that drew the ire of conservatives.
"I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," McAuliffe, who previously served as governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018, said during the debate in Alexandria, Virginia.
McAuliffe made the remarks in response to Youngkin, the Republican candidate, who argued that parents should be more involved in the decisions of local school districts. Conservative social media responded.
"Parents are in control of their kids. Not @TerryMcAuliffe. Never," one user wrote on Twitter.
"Make sure every parent in Virginia hears this before they vote," tweeted former Trump adviser Stephen Miller.
"Terry McAuliffe is pro-choice unless the decision belongs to the parents of a school-aged kid," replied Autumn Johnson.
"Terry McAuliffe tonight in a debate.......I don't think parents should have a say in what is taught in schools...... This is exactly why he should never hold a position of power ever again," another user wrote.
"Oh no? Who should decide what kids get taught @TerryMcAuliffe? You?" another replied.
At the debate, Youngkin agreed that local school districts should make those decisions, but he demanded they include parents in the dialogue and "concepts of safety and privacy" in the discussion.
"What we've seen over the course of this last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents. In fact in Fairfax County this past week, we watched parents so upset because there was such sexually explicit material in the library they had never seen, it was shocking," Youngkin said. "And in fact, you vetoed the bill that would have informed parents that they were there. You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids' education."
McAuliffe noted that parents "had the right to veto books" under a bill he vetoed. "I'm not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decision," he said.
Tuesday's debate between the two candidates was the last before the state's Nov. 2 election
Polls show a tight race between the two candidates, with the RealClearPolitics Average showing McAuliffe leading Youngkin by just under three points.
After the debate, McAuliffe called Youngkin a "dangerous Trump wannabe" and stated the "stakes in this race couldn't be higher."
"Tonight made it clear, the stakes in this race couldn't be higher. Folks, we're up against a dangerous Trump wannabe who will set us back BIG TIME," McAuliffe tweeted. "We're building the largest grassroots movement in VA history to defeat him."