MATTHEWS: Terry McAuliffe did himself no favors in last week’s Virginia gubernatorial debate

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Republican challenger, Glenn Youngkin, participate in a debate at Northern Virginia Community College, in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The Virginia gubernatorial race between Democrat nominee Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin has been a surprisingly close and entertaining one. And with a little less than a month left between now and Election Day, it will be interesting to see if Youngkin manages to surge ahead of McAuliffe in the polls in the final weeks.

Though he was already holding his own, fresh life was breathed into Youngkin’s campaign last week when McAuliffe made a potentially catastrophic blunder during their final debate.

McAuliffe and Youngkin were duking it out over state education guidelines on transgender students, what’s appropriate to teach children in public school classrooms, and if parents should be notified when lesson plans will include sexually explicit content. At a certain point, a visibly agitated McAuliffe finally blurted out to a persistent Youngkin, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

It didn’t take long for Youngkin to, as the media is so fond of saying, “pounce” and seize on McAuliffe’s statement. He put out a blistering ad the next day, juxtaposing McAuliffe’s words alongside video clips of concerned Virginia parents speaking out at school board meetings about the sexually explicit content they’d found in some school library books.

For anyone who wonders if McAuliffe set out to do damage control in the aftermath of the debate, well, he didn’t. Instead, the former Virginia governor, who is vying for a second (non-consecutive) term, doubled down on his comments, telling news outlet CBS-19 in an interview some 24 hours later that “you don’t want parents coming in, in every different school district, saying this is what should be taught here and this is what should be taught there.”

So to Terry McAuliffe, parents should have no input on what their children are being taught. That will prove to be very eye opening to parents in Virginia, many of who are well aware that the state has become a hot spot of sorts for battles with liberal school boards on the forced implementation of radical leftist ideas like Critical Race Theory and “woke” gender-identity ideology.

Things have gotten so intense at some of these meetings that law enforcement has had to get involved, either during the meetings themselves or in response to complaints that pro-CRT parents are engaging in online witch hunts and “cancel campaigns” against their opposition.

American history is filled with “turning point moments” in political campaigns where a candidate either says or does something that changes the tide of the race, sometimes against him and sometimes in his favor. We saw it happen here in North Carolina a year ago when Democrat Senate nominee Cal Cunningham’s campaign imploded after allegations of an extramarital affair surfaced.

His responses to the controversy, essentially trying to dodge the issue in hopes that voters would forget about it come election time, backfired and he lost his race against incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

We won’t know for sure until next month if McAuliffe’s declarations about how parents should leave setting the curriculum up to school boards will end up hurting him at the polls, but in this columnist’s humble opinion, it should.

Parents and teachers should be able to work together on the curriculum being taught in their children’s school system. Not only because they pay taxes into that very system, but obviously with having their sons and daughters attend these schools, they have a very personal interest in wanting to see their children learn what they need to in order to be able to succeed later on in life.

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Virginia voters need to remember those words and vote accordingly on Nov. 2.

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.