In August 1995, Youngkin joined the private-equity firm The Carlyle Group, based in Washington, D.C., initially as a member of the US buyout team. In 1999, he was named a partner and managing director of Carlyle. He managed the firm's United Kingdom buyout team (2000–2005) and global industrial sector investment team (2005–2008), dividing his time between London and Washington.
In April 2008, Carlyle's founders asked Youngkin to step back from deal-making to focus on the firm's broader strategy. In 2009, the founders created a seven-person operating committee, chaired by Youngkin, which oversaw the non-deal, day-to-day operations of Carlyle. In 2009 Youngkin also joined, along with Daniel Akerson, the firm's executive committee, which had previously consisted solely of the three founders.
When Carlyle's chief financial officer Peter Nachtwey left suddenly in late 2010, Youngkin became interim CFO until Adena Friedman was hired as CFO late March 2011. In 2010, Youngkin joined the firm's management committee. Youngkin was chief operating officer of the Carlyle Group from March 2011 until June 2014.
In June 2014, he became co-president and co-chief operating officer with Michael J. Cavanagh, who joined the Carlyle Group from JPMorgan Chase. Together they helped develop and implement the firm's growth initiatives and managed the firm's operations on a day-to-day basis. Cavanagh left the firm in May 2015 to become CFO of Comcast, leaving Youngkin as president and COO of Carlyle.
In October 2017, the Carlyle Group announced that its founders would remain executive chairmen on the board of directors but step down as the day-to-day leaders of the firm; they named Youngkin and Kewsong Lee to succeed them, as co-CEOs, effective January 1, 2018. As co-CEOs, Youngkin oversaw Carlyle's real estate, energy, infrastructure businesses, and investment solutions businesses; Lee oversaw the firm's corporate private equity and global credit businesses. Youngkin and Lee also joined the firm's board of directors when they became co-CEOs.
Bloomberg News described the co-CEO relationship as "awkward ... and increasingly acrimonious" and Youngkin announced his retirement after 2 1⁄2 years. In July 2020, Youngkin announced that he would retire from the Carlyle Group at the end of September 2020, stating his intention to focus on community and public service efforts. In 2020, Youngkin and his wife founded a nonprofit, Virginia Ready Initiative, focusing on connecting unemployed people in the state with job-training programs and potential employers.
Youngkin won the nomination at the party's state convention on May 10, 2021, after multiple rounds of ranked-choice voting at 39 locations across the state. He defeated six other candidates. All the Republican candidates, including Youngkin, stressed their support for Donald Trump and Trumpism, although other candidates for the nomination, such as state senator Amanda Chase, were the most vocally pro-Trump. After winning the party's nomination, Youngkin was endorsed by Trump. Youngkin called the endorsement an "honor" but has sought to distance himself from some of Trump's most ardent supporters.The New York Times wrote in October that Youngkin had sought to localize the race. Youngkin openly courted both anti- and pro-Trump supporters.
He faced the Democratic nominee, former governor Terry McAuliffe, in the general election. On July 12, 2021, Youngkin declined to face McAuliffe in the Virginia Bar Association debate, citing his objection to the moderator, Judy Woodruff, for a donation she made to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund in 2010. The VBA had held a gubernatorial debate every election year since 1985 McAuliffe and Youngkin went on to debate two times during the campaign.
Campaign sign for Youngkin
According to PolitiFact, before the Republican convention, Youngkin "toed a delicate line when asked if Biden was legitimately elected. He acknowledged that Biden was president but would not clearly say whether he thought the president was fairly elected. After the convention, Youngkin began acknowledging that Biden's election was legitimate." Amanda Chase, who has advanced conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, acted as a campaign surrogate for Youngkin, and the Associated Press noted that Youngkin "failed to refute a conspiracy theory" about the 2020 election; when asked at one of his rallies if Trump could be restored as president, Youngkin replied "I don’t know the particulars about how that can happen because what’s happening in the court system is moving slowly and it’s unclear."
Youngkin made a campaign appearance with Mike Pence in August, and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon spoke in support of Youngkin at an October rally, which also featured a video appearance from Trump. Youngkin did not personally attend the October rally, although he thanked the host for holding it. He later called it "weird and wrong" when that rally opened with attendees pledging allegiance to a flag that had flown, in the words of the event emcee, "at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on Jan. 6."
When asked by Axios during the campaign whether he would have voted to certify Biden's election had he been a member of Congress at the time, Youngkin initially refused to answer. A few days later, Youngkin's campaign released a statement confirming that Youngkin would have voted to certify Biden's election. Youngkin has continued to emphasize "election integrity" as a major campaign issue and supports stricter voting laws, such as a photo ID requirement.
Youngkin's victory in the 2021 race was attributed to a coalition of voters consisting of Trump supporters and suburban residents who had supported President Joe Biden in 2020.
On The Issues, a non-partisan organization that tracks candidates' positions, and is owned by Snopes, considers Youngkin to be a "Populist- Leaning Conservative" Republican. While running in the Republican primary, Youngkin pledged to "stand up against all of the legislation that has been passed by the Democrats" and to be an opponent of abortion. He describes himself as "pro-life" but says he supports legal access to abortion in cases of saving the pregnant patient's life, rape, and incest. He was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion movement PAC. Youngkin criticized the Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, stating he instead favors a "pain threshold bill," which occurs around twenty weeks. Youngkin personally opposes same-sex marriage, but has said he would not interfere with the issue as governor. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said that he considers same-sex marriage "legally acceptable" and that "as governor, [he] would support [legal same-sex marriage]."
He spoke out against gun legislation that Democrats had passed, including expanded background checks, handgun purchase limitations and red flag laws. After winning the nomination, he de-emphasized these social issues, seeking to appeal to suburban swing voters. In July, he was caught on a hot mic telling an activist that he would limit his comments about abortion during the campaign so that he would not alienate independent voters. Also in July, the National Rifle Association (NRA) declined to endorse Youngkin after he declined to fill out their candidate survey. In September, a Democratic-aligned group began running ads in conservative parts of Virginia, seeking to diminish Republican turnout by attacking his lack of an endorsement from the NRA.
Youngkin supports the COVID-19 vaccine, but opposes mask and vaccine mandates. He supports eliminating the grocery tax, suspending the gas tax increase, offering a one-time rebate on income tax, doubling the standard deduction on income tax, cutting the retirement tax on veterans' income, and implementing voter approval for any additional increase to local property taxes, which the Associated Press has called the "most wide-ranging and detailed" plan of his campaign.
Youngkin's education platform was identified as the centerpiece of his campaign by much of the national media. The Youngkin campaign opposed protections for transgender students in Virginia public schools and was against what Youngkin characterized as the pervasive teaching of critical race theory in the state.Politifact and PBS criticized these claims, saying they found no evidence that critical race theory was part of state curriculum standards and little evidence of it being taught in classrooms. Youngkin sought to mobilize voters on the issue of education by holding Parents Matter rallies. He also called for campus police to be stationed at every school in Virginia, following a sexual assault in a Loudoun County school. According to Politico, Youngkin "has hung his campaign on education", and The New York Times wrote that Youngkin's campaign turned Virginia public schools into "a cultural war zone".
PolitiFact authored six fact checks about statements made by Youngkin during the campaign. They rated Youngkin's claim that McAuliffe would remove "the Pledge of Allegiance and the Fourth of July from curriculum" in schools as false. They rated Youngkin's claim that "We watched Terry McAuliffe, when he was governor, lower the (accreditation) standards in our schools" as "mostly true". They rated Youngkin's claim that McAuliffe asked President Biden "to dispatch the Department of Justice and the FBI to try to silence parents in Virginia" as "pants on fire."
Youngkin lives in Great Falls, Virginia, with his wife Suzanne and their four children. As of September 2021,[update] he had an estimated net worth of $440 million. Youngkin is 6'7. He is a Christian and previously served on the vestry of Holy Trinity Church in McLean, Virginia. His church, Holy Trinity, describes itself as a "non-denominational church with Anglican roots and a contemporary charismatic expression."