Glen Yongkin, a political apprentice who rewrote the Republican playbook – News Couple

Glen Yongkin, a political apprentice who rewrote the Republican playbook

When Glenn Yongkin took to a stage in a crowded hotel ballroom in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the classic 1969 rock “Spirit in the Sky” blasted through the speakers.

Dressed in a dark blue suit and red tie, the present-day Republican man welcomed the supporters and applauded to the music, pausing to point one finger at the sky and mouth the lyrics: “You know it’s a must, you must have a friend in Jesus.”

Minutes earlier, the Associated Press predicted the 54-year-old political newcomer would be the winner of Virginia’s hotly contested race. The former co-CEO of private equity giant Carlyle Group defeated veteran Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe by a 2.5-point margin in a state Joe Biden would have won by more than 10 points a year earlier.

The results shocked the Democrats — and boosted the morale of Republicans who were worried about their party’s future with Donald Trump out of the White House. Yongkin has successfully balanced a political tightrope to secure Trump’s base of rural conservative supporters while winning over independents in the affluent suburbs outside Washington, DC.

Leading Republicans said Yongkin, who campaigned on a lower tax platform, more money for law enforcement and focus on parental participation in public schools, has presented their party with a guide to midterm elections next year, when control of Congress is ready. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat took the argument one step further, tweeting: “I’ll just say it: Glenn Yongkin should seriously consider running for president in 2024.”

It was a rapid political rise for a man who left the top position at Carlisle less than 18 months ago after losing a power struggle with his co-CEO Kyusong Lee. The Republican Donor had never before ran for public office after spending the first three decades of his career climbing the corporate ladder.

Yongkin grew up in Virginia Beach, a resort town that also has several military bases. Growing up his personal image during the campaign trail, he talked about his first-ever job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. The avid basketball player attended Rice University in Houston, Texas, on an athletic scholarship, earning an engineering degree. After his win on Wednesday, Yongkin signed basketballs with Sharpay before throwing them into the crowd.

Yongkin transferred to Harvard Business School and joined the McKinsey Consulting Group after graduation. He married his wife, Susan, and had four children. In 1995, he was recruited into Carlyle by the company’s co-founder, David Rubinstein, and spent the next quarter-century charting the company’s rise from a startup to a powerhouse — amassing a net worth of nearly $470 million, according to Forbes.

He opened Carlyle’s London offices in the early 2000s, helping launch several Europe-based funds before returning to the United States. After the 2008 financial crisis, he shifted his focus to a broader strategy, becoming COO and later co-chairman. In 2017, he was named co-CEO alongside Lee who, insiders say, has outdone the moderate Yongkin.

Former colleagues give mixed ratings to their former boss. One described Yongkin as a skilled operations expert and a “nice person”. Another described him as “the poster child of the good American . . . but he will stab you in the back if he sees an advantage.”

Months after leaving Carlisle, in July 2020, Youngkin launched his bid for Virginia’s governor, using his vast fortune to hire political advisors and produce a witty PR campaign depicting a real-life father who advocates “common sense”. The once CEO swapped out his suits with fleece jackets and khaki pants and clinched his party’s nomination in May.

An evangelical Christian, who colleagues say has kept his religious beliefs closely guarded at work, began speaking openly about his faith, sharing with us how his beliefs deepened while attending Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Youngkin and his later wife established an HTB-style diocese in McLean, Virginia, called Holy Trinity Church.

His background in private equity and country club style has led to comparisons with Mitt Romney, who was an executive at Bain before entering Republican politics. But his opponent McAuliffe called him “Donald Trump in khaki,” arguing that Yongkin’s moderate personality disguises more hard-line views.

A political novice often stumbles on his quest to escape Trump’s shadow. In one case, he refused to answer an interviewer’s question whether he would have voted to ratify the election had he been a congressman on January 6, when violent mobs of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. After the backlash, Yongkin changed his tune, telling a local television network that he would “definitely” vote to believe.

Analysts say Yongkin’s hazy messaging worked to his advantage as he assembled a coalition of voters to make him Virginia’s first elected Republican governor in more than a decade. “Youngkin seems more friendly, kinder, more natural. Who knows if he really is?” says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “We don’t know anything about him, really. That’s what [his campaign] Wanted: a rasa drum. Write anything you want on this board.

Additional reporting by Kay Wiggins and Antoine Garra

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