Republican candidates in Virginia governors' contest sign onto anti-critical race theory pledge
It's part of a broader campaign by 1776 Action, inspired by former President Trump's commission of similar name
The majority of Republican candidates for Virginia governor have signed onto a pledge opposing critical race theory, reflecting how politically salient the issue has become in both the state and the nation as a whole.
News of the pledge comes just days before the Republican state convention where the party will decide its nominee. According to the group 1776 Action, which started the pledge, Republicans Glenn Youngkin, Pete Snyder, Sergio de la Peña, Amanda Chase, Peter Doran and Kirk Cox have all signed onto it.
It's part of a broader campaign by the group, which was inspired by former President Trump's commission of similar name. While the pledge doesn't explicitly mention "critical race theory," it does employ language echoing previous defenses against the ideology.
"Our young people should be taught to view one another not according to race or gender, but as individuals made in the image of God," it reads. It also states that "[t]eaching children to hate their country and each other is immoral and deeply harmful to our society and must be stopped."
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None of the leading Democratic candidates have signed the pledge, according to 1776 Action founder Adam Waldeck.
"We are thrilled that so many candidates for Virginia governor signed the 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools," said Waldeck, once an aide to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"Clearly, stopping the anti-American indoctrination of our schoolchildren will be one of the most important issues for many Virginia voters in this year's gubernatorial race — and the response from the Republican candidates has been tremendous. It's wonderful to know that at least one of the major parties will have a nominee on the ballot who is committed to proudly defending the legacy of great Virginians such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson."
The issue has surged in importance recently as parents and teachers revolted against materials with purportedly divisive concepts about race. In recent weeks, the state garnered national attention for considering plans to remove accelerated math courses and advanced diplomas. On Wednesday, Fox News reported on criticism Snyder and others leveled at the state's proposed social and emotional learning standards as well.
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Snyder has committed to cutting funding to any school district that teaches what he calls "racist garbage" in schools.
In a statement to Fox News, Youngkin said: "As governor, I will not allow the political agenda of critical race theory to be taught in our schools. We will replace it with a high-quality civics curriculum."
Polling earlier this week showed Youngkin leading the pack with 37.7% of likely convention delegates. Following him was Snyder with 26.2% and Cox with 9.5%.
Puneet Ahluwalia, who's running for lieutenant governor in Virginia, has also been vocal on the issue.
Across the country, parents and teachers have spoken out against the advent of training and curricula that appeared to catch them by surprise. Besides schools, businesses and major institutions have delved into ideas spouted by authors like Ibram Kendi, who explicitly calls for discrimination in his book "How to be an Anti-Racist."
Governments like Virginia's have generally defended the diversity materials as a way to enhance "equity," fight bias, and enhance understanding among various identity groups.
Trump previously tried to shut down such training in the federal government, but President Biden quickly reversed his executive action upon entering office. Despite Biden's actions, however, the issue of critical race theory (CRT) is gaining steam with politicians at the state, local and national level.
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For example, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem recently signed onto 1776 Action's pledge and a long list of states have considered anti-CRT legislation. A Dallas-area school board election also made national news when two candidates obtained nearly 70% of the vote while running against CRT.
Russ Vought, the former Office of Management and Budget director who fought diversity trainings under Trump, indicated to Fox News that the issue was key to Republicans' electoral prospects. He currently runs a group called Center for Renewing America, which is dedicated to advancing anti-CRT efforts at the grassroots and state level.
"Many establishment Republicans are slowly awakening to this being an issue that people care about," he said on Tuesday.
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"And I would say that the grassroots cares about this and election integrity more than any other issue right now. So, if you're a Republican, and you are not doing something to combat critical race theory, you have no idea where your people are."
It's difficult to find polling on the issue, making enthusiasm hard to gauge. However, multiple states have passed measures opposing the ideology. In Virginia, both Loudoun and Fairfax County have seen recall efforts over the issue while the former's school board meetings have erupted with parent complaints.
Kelly Laco contributed to this report.