The election results here in Virginia last night were much closer than anyone, including Republicans, thought they would be…Democrat Terry McAuliffe squeaked out a two percentage point win over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli last night in what will go down as the most expensive and divisive race in the Commonwealth’s history. Downballot – State Senator Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) handily beat political newcomer and tea party darling EW Jackson…BUT the big news of the morning is that State Senator Mark Herring’s (D-Loudon) vote count topped another sitting State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) in the wee hours of the morning – currently his lead is less than 600 votes with all precincts reporting in what will no doubt be a recount situation unfolding in the days ahead (although that could change after canvass today). No pundit in Virginia would have given Herring a chance with McAuliffe winning by as slim a margin as he did – the AGs race has not been won by a Democrat since 1989 as the Republicans typically have a 3-4% built in advantage with that seat.
The House of Delegates followed the same pattern of nail biting finishes – many races not settled until the final ballots were counted from the last precincts to report. In the end it was a much better than expected night for Speaker Bill Howell’s Republican Caucus – they only lost two seats and because of a pick-up in a Democrat district in Southwest (where the Ds did not contest a seat previously held by a D), the Republicans only lost a net of one seat – meaning the makeup of the House of Delegates is now 67 Rs – 33 Ds. The two R losers were from different parts of the state – Mark Dudenhefer lost his seat in Stafford by 223 votes and Mike Watson lost a tough race in Williamsburg by a little more than 1,000 votes. Both Watson and Dudenhefer were well respected first-termers in tough districts with Dudenhefer being the bigger surprise of the two. Nevertheless, many other seats that nearly all in the capital city thought had a chance to flip to the D column did not – no matter there will be 13 new members of the House of Delegates when they convene in January (10 Rs that won seats previously held by Rs…1 R pick up mentioned above…and 2 new Ds that beat Rs mentioned above).
So, the immediate next steps are going to be a recount in the Attorney General race AND the battle for control of the State Senate will begin in earnest – with Ralph Northam’s win his seat will come open and will be hotly contested. Democrats need to hold that seat to have an effective majority (20-20 but LG Northam will break ties). If Herring’s lead holds the race to replace him will begin in earnest too – by most accounts a tougher seat for the Ds to hold (if Obenshain prevails his seat should be an easy hold for the Rs). Lots of candidate names for both seats have been discussed and will likely unfold with a special election in December or early January – never dull here in the Commonwealth.
Ken Cuccinelli’s concession speech was less of a concession and more a commercial for the conservative wing of the Republican party so it will be interesting what he does the next several months (possibly taking on Mark Warner in 2014 for the Senate?)…Terry McAuliffe seems to have gotten the message given his margin of victory that he is going to have to govern with a spirit of bi-partisanship and compromise with Republicans – it remains to be seen how long that lasts and if the Speaker and his caucus are in any mood to extend the olive branch to his administration in the days ahead. Here are some select articles from across Virginia this morning to give you more color and analysis:
For detailed House Results:
Policy Implications of Election:
Overview of Governor: