Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic hopeful in Tuesday’s Virginia gubernatorial race, was mocked by Republican critics for his decision to campaign with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten at his final rally before the election.
Weingarten is a favorite target by Republicans who see her as being ensconced in the dealings of the Democratic Party. They see her as an establishment figure and political vulnerability for McAuliffe during his campaign against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
“Wait, what? The night before the election in VA where education might be the top issue, McAuliffe is campaigning with the woman who shut down schools for 18 months?” Mark Hemingway, a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations, tweeted.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also took to Twitter to mock Weingarten’s appearance, posting that the “union boss responsible for shutting down schools is the final surrogate for Terry McAuliffe’s campaign.”
“Virginians should vote accordingly,” he posted. His tweet was subsequently retweeted by the Republican National Committee.
Weingarten’s supporters see her as a leader forced to deal with a once-in-a-generation pandemic filled with uncertainties – especially in the early days. She has the herculean task of trying to open schools all while making sure teachers and students were safe, they say.
But detractors said reopening schools became politicized, and Weingarten played a key role in that transition.
In February, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that vaccination of teachers “is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.”
Weingarten, at the time, said many schools lacked the needed ventilation updates and other key measures put into place by health officials.
“Vaccinations go from a priority to essential if you can’t do some of these basic mitigation strategies,” she said. “Rather than keep these schools closed for months, why not vaccinate teachers more quickly?”
The Biden administration did not take a definitive stance at the time, the Associated Press reported. Republican critics saw Biden’s response as cowing to the teachers unions.
In May, Weingarten came out in favor of reopening due to the wide availability of vaccines and a new infusion of federal education money that removed many obstacles that prevented schools from opening.
McAuliffe on Monday tried to tie Youngkin to former President Trump.
“I’m closing my campaign with you in Richmond,” McAuliffe said. “He is closing his campaign with Donald Trump. Really?”
Trump held a tele-rally, but Youngkin did not participate.
“Tomorrow I’d like to ask everyone to get out and vote for Glenn Youngkin. He’s a fantastic guy,” Trump told an invited group of supporters by phone. “The future of this commonwealth — this great, great commonwealth — is on the ballot tomorrow.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report