‘Don’t Boo, Vote!’: Former President Obama visits VCU ahead of November elections, campaigns for McAuliffe

Former President Barack Obama campaigned for democratic gubernatorial canidate Terry McAuliffe on Saturday in The Compass in front of VCU's Cabell library. Photo by Megan Lee

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Former President Barack Obama traveled to Richmond on Saturday to campaign for democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. The rally was held at The Compass, located outside of the James Branch Cabell Library on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus.

“I want you to get fired up inside and then go vote,” Obama said.

Obama was the concluding speaker in a large group of guests who were present to express support for McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Gov. Ralph Northam, Senator Tim Kaine and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe danced in front of VCU’s Cabell Library before his campaign rally on Saturday. Photo by Megan Lee

Among those accompanying McAuliffe on the Democratic ticket in the Nov. 2 Virginia General Election include Mark Herring, who is running for reelection as Attorney General, and Del. Hala Ayala, candidate for lieutenant governor. All candidates spoke prior to McAuliffe and Obama’s appearance, and Obama expressed support for all candidates.

Prior to his terms as president, Obama served as a U.S. senator and a member of the Illinois senate.

“Terry [McAuliffe] has brought the same grit and determination to everything he’s done,” Obama said. “From public service, to business, to being a husband, to being a father of five amazing children — so the guy knows how to work hard.”

McAuliffe was 72nd governor of Virginia, from 2014 to 2018. He is running for a second term against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin and Liberation party candidate Princess Blanding.

Blanding is the sister of VCU alumnus Marcus-David Peters, who was shot and killed by police while experiencing a mental health crisis on Interstate 95. She is running as a third party candidate whose name will appear on the gubernatorial ballot alongside McAuliffe and Youngkin.  

Former President Barack Obama encouraged Richmonders to vote down the democratic ticket during Virginia’s General Election. Obama expressed support for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe during a rally at VCU on Saturday. Photo by Megan Lee

The crowd booed when Obama brought up Youngkin’s proposed policies.

“Don’t boo, vote!” Obama said. “Booing doesn’t do nothing. Booing might make you feel better, but it’s not going to get Terry elected.”

Obama said he doesn’t expect McAuliffe to solve “every problem” in Virginia.

“I didn’t solve every problem when I was president. I mean, the fact is that it’s hard to undo the legacy of discrimination that goes back centuries,” Obama said “It’s hard in a big country like this, where people disagree a lot, to get everybody moving in the same direction, but here’s the thing — we can make it better.”

Obama said McAuliffe has shown Virginia he is committed to improving the Commonwealth through his “track record of accomplishment,” in his previous term as governor.

“When you got the right person in the job, we might not get every single person to get a job but more people will get jobs,” Obama said. “We may not get every child the best education in the world but we can get a lot more kids a better education.”

During his speech, Obama called the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building, “the biggest threat to democracy” in his lifetime. 

People gathered outside VCU’s Cabell Library to listen to former President Barack Obama and other democratic figures campaign for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Photo by Megan Lee

The former president criticized people who attended a Republican rally for honoring a flag used at the insurrection. The rally was held on Oct. 13 in Richmond and Youngkin did not attend, according to the Associated Press. Youngkin released a statement the next day which stated, “there is no room for violence in America.”

“It is weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6. As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong,” Youngkin stated. 

McAuliffe took the stage before Obama to speak about his campaign and his previous achievements as governor of Virginia.

“I did it, folks, by finding common ground,” McAuliffe said. “I’ll work with anybody. It doesn’t matter to me what your party persuasion is.”

He referred to Youngkin as “Donald Trump in khakis” and spoke about his commitment to working with “reasonable republicans.”

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear today. Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable republican,” McAuliffe said. 

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