Virginia governor’s race: What does ‘pro-business’ mean in a pandemic?

For years Republican candidates have claimed to be pro-business by supporting tax cuts and deregulation. But 18 months into a global pandemic, the definition of “pro-business” may be shifting, with many voters now seeing the economy and public health as inextricably linked. In Virginia’s governorship election, which polls indicate is close with only five weeks left, the former Democratic Governor. Terry McAuliffe argues that there won’t be an economic recovery until the pandemic has been contained. He also believes masking and vaccination mandates will help businesses.

Why We Wrote This

Will voters view masking and vaccination mandates to be beneficial or detrimental to the economy? Virginia’s governor race could be a case in point.

“Businesses support vaccination,” Mr. McAuliffe says. I want to rebuild a vibrant economy. COVID is not the best way to do this. Businesses are not going to move to a county with sky-high rates of COVID and low rates of vaccinations.”

His Republican opponent, former CEO and first-time politician Glenn Youngkin, says many business owners have told him they don’t want mandates imposed on them and their employees. The policy might backfire on him and hurt economic growth, he believes.

” If businesses are determined to take action, it’s their decision,” Mr. Youngkin says. “Mandates do not work .”

Woodbridge

Republican Glenn Youngkin, a Republican candidate for governor, is promoting his pro-business agenda at Todos Supermarket in Todos, Virginia’s largest Hispanic grocery store. After a brief stint at the cash register he gives one woman his change. She quips, “I hope that you can count money like the current governor.” The former CEO describes his plans to abolish the grocery tax and suspend the gas tax. He also wants to invest in education, which sounds great to Carlos Castro, Todos’s owner.

Why We Wrote This

With the economy and public healthcare becoming more closely linked, are voters likely to see vaccine and mask mandates either helping or hurting businesses? This may be a case study.

But Mr. Castro says he has a more pressing concern right now: curbing COVID-19.

Pandemic-induced shortages of equipment, supplies, and labor have delayed the opening of his second Todos store. He claims that the increased unemployment benefits have made it more difficult for staff to stay employed. It’s been an ongoing struggle to convince customers to wear masks, and to get their employees vaccinated. GOP candidates such as Mr. Youngkin, have been claiming to be “pro-business” for years by supporting tax cuts and deregulation. But 18 months into a global pandemic, the definition of “pro-business” may be shifting, with many voters now seeing the economy and public health as inextricably linked. Former Virginia Governor. Terry McAuliffe, who is locked in a close race with Mr. Youngkin, are leaning towards that position. They argue that vaccine and mask mandates are business-boosting measures and there won’t be any real economic recovery until that pandemic is under control.

With Virginia’s early voting underway and only five weeks before Election Day, this issue could be a crucial test for how politics surrounding the pandemic will play out during next year’s midterm elections.

” The vaccine mandate is controversial among a lot Republican voters,” states Alex Conant, a GOP strategist. Some business owners are happy with the mandates. It allows their employees to be mad at Biden and not them.”

That’s certainly the case for Mr. Castro, who says he’s more than happy for the federal government to step in.

” “It’s good for us because it doesn’t force us to handle it,” Mr. Castro says. “Now I don’t have to be fighting with anybody.”

A sharp partisan split

Under the new requirements announced earlier this month by President Joe Biden, employers like Mr. Castro with 100 or more employees must soon have a fully vaccinated workforce or provide weekly testing. Or they could lose their job. Federal employees must have vaccinated. Altogether, the mandates will apply to two-thirds of American workers. In his speech, President Biden mentioned that major corporations such as Fox News have implemented similar restrictions.

“If you look at the polling, businesses support vaccination,” says Mr. McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chair who served as Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018. I want to rebuild a vibrant economy. COVID is not the answer. Businesses are not going to move to a county with sky-high rates of COVID and low rates of vaccinations.”

Democrats believe this message – that a healthy economy first means controlling the pandemic – is a winning one. California Governor. Gavin Newsom said the outcome was a vote for vaccines and “ending this pandemic.”

“Voters in California didn’t like that Newsom had that fancy dinner [during lockdown], but they thought that it’s better to have this set of pandemic politics than what you get with a Republican,” says Bill Kristol, a conservative commentator and prominent Trump critic, who has endorsed Mr. McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race. “If you look at the world over the past 200 years, it’s good for the economy to have good public health.”

According to a recent poll by Morning Consult, 58% of Americans support the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. But there’s a big partisan split, with 80% of Democrats but only one-third of Republicans in favor.

Former President Donald Trump strongly rebuked vaccine regulations, along with Republican governors throughout the country. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told his state’s cities and counties they would be fined $5,000 per employee if they require public workers to be vaccinated; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had already issued an executive order banning vaccine requirements. Mississippi’s governor called Mr. Biden’s mandates a form of “tyranny,” and South Carolina’s vowed to fight Mr. Biden to “the gates of hell.” Republican attorneys general from 24 states have threatened legal action.

Mr. Youngkin has stressed that he supports vaccination and said many business owners told him they do not want mandatory vaccines.

” The vaccine is the most effective way to safeguard your health. However, it’s up to you as an individual. “If businesses are determined to take action, it’s their decision,” Mr. Youngkin says. “Mandates are not the answer.”

The first-time politician is walking an especially delicate line in Virginia, a former swing state that turned decidedly bluer over the past decade. Ranked CNBC’s “top state to do business” for the past two years in a row, Virginia will likely have its gubernatorial election decided by turnout in the increasingly Democratic suburbs outside Washington, where many voters support stronger steps to prevent the virus’s spread.

“Republicans are sick of the pandemic too,” says GOP strategist Whit Ayres. “A reflexive less-regulation message may not be effective when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.”

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor

Carlos Castro, owner of Todos Supermarket in Woodbridge, Virginia, says he welcomes President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates. Castro says that he is happy to not have to fight with anyone. He has had difficulty keeping employees in place during the pandemic. We need to return people to work. “We need to move the economy.”

“We need to get the economy moving”

But general concerns about the economy – even if stemming from the pandemic’s effects – could still work to Mr. Youngkin’s benefit. In a recent Washington Post-Schar School poll, registered voters in Virginia ranked the economy as the top voting issue in November’s election, followed by the coronavirus. While voters trusted Mr. McAuliffe to do a better job handling the pandemic by 44% to 35%, Mr. Youngkin had a one-percentage-point edge on handling the economy. Business owners know that is more than just “Do you support vaccine mandates?” Mr. Conant the GOP strategist, says that there’s more to than that.

Mr. Castro says that he is still undecided about who he will vote for. He backed Mr. McAuliffe in 2014, and thought he was a good governor. He also stated that he believed in political diversity and wanted to support moderate Republicans who could steer the party towards the center when it comes to issues such as immigration. He is concerned that the pro-union Democrats in Congress could weaken, or even repeal Virginia’s “right of work” law.

He believes his vote will come down to who will stop the pandemic faster – right now, it’s Mr. McAuliffe.

” “We have to get people back into work.” says Mr. Castro. “We need to get the economy moving.”

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