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Anti-critical race theory org launching $1M in ads targeting McAuliffe before Virginia governor race

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An anti-critical race theory (CRT) organization is helping Virginia voters keep the issue top-of-mind with a $1 million, multi-faceted ad strategy before November’s toss-up gubernatorial election.

Starting on Friday, national and state TV networks will air a video accusing Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe of “minimizing” the role of parents. A digital component will target Essex, Nelson and Westmoreland counties, considered to be bellwether’s in the race. Loudoun and Fairfax counties, which have seen an explosion in debate over the issue, will also be targeted.

Free to Learn Action, a 501(c)4 tax-exempt organization, is running the ads less than two weeks before residents head to the polls. They’re scheduled to continue through the election.

The group’s 501(c)3 has already placed ads in the state, where its president, Alleigh Marré, resides.

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“The fact that many parents no longer feel like their child is entrusted to a safe school environment erodes the most basic expectation between a parent and the education system. We cannot allow this to continue,” said Marré, who leads both the (c)3 and (c)4. “The safety and future of our children is at stake.”

Friday’s video hones in on Terry McAuliffe’s controversial argument that parents shouldn’t be “telling schools what they should teach.”

CRT, and education more generally, have become prominent in the race, which could serve as a political test for the controversial ideology. McAuliffe’s Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, has been outspoken about the issue while the Democratic nominee has dismissed the controversy as a right-wing conspiracy.

McAuliffe recently released an ad accusing Youngkin of taking his comments out of context. 

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“Glenn Youngkin’s taking my words out of context. I’ve always valued the concerns of parents,” he said. McAuliffe and his wife, he said, “know good schools depend on involved parents.”

Free to Learn Action’s ad starts with footage of parents with children. 

“Raising children,” a female narrator says. “There’s so many roles. Cheerleader, teacher. The most important? Protector.”

“But, Terry McAuliffe spent years minimizing the role of parents.”

The ad then shows McAuliffe saying: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

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It touches on sensitive subjects within the state — low test scores, “sexual assaults, and a divisive activist curriculum” — suggesting that McAuliffe, who is also a former governor, is to blame.

The ad points to stories about an alleged sexual assault in Loudoun County and a graphic book in Fairfax. McAuliffe didn’t appear to be involved with those specific instances, although a leaked document reportedly showed his Department of Education encouraging the use of CRT and related ideas.

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