Republican Bob McDonnell easily won the Virginia governor's race just a year after the state went overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Unofficial results showed the former attorney general defeating Creigh Deeds with about 60 percent of the vote and returning a Republican to the governor's office for the first time in eight years. It was a much wider margin than their recount-tight race for attorney general four years ago.
Republicans Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli also won for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.
"I just got tackled by my five kids and my wife, and there are a lot of tears on my cheeks right now,'' McDonnell told The Associated Press.
When the TV screens at his headquarters flashed that he had won, his supporters in a crowded Richmond hotel ballroom screamed, waved signs and began chanting, "Go, Bob, go!"
At a hotel a few miles away, Deeds addressed a somber crowd.
"We've got a whole pile of work in front of us, and just because we didn't get the right result tonight doesn't mean we can go home and whine," he said.
This race and the contest for governor of New Jersey are viewed as the first referendum on the president and the Democratic Congress before the 2010 mid-term elections. But according to exit polls reported on MSNBC, Obama was not a factor in 57 percent of Virginia voters' decisions.
Republican Chris Christie has defeated Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in New Jersey. With 71 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Christie had 50 percent of the vote to Corzine's 44 percent.
A year ago, Obama became the first Democrat in 44 years to carry Virginia in a presidential race.
This time voters expressed angst about major Obama initiatives such as health care, energy and stimulus spending. But McDonnell dominated the campaign's central issues: jobs and the economy. In Associated Press surveys at polling places statewide, about eight in 10 voters said they were worried about the direction of the nation's economy, and the majority of those favored McDonnell.
Democrats had won big victories in Virginia in 2006 and 2008, but interviews with voters leaving polling stations in the swing state on Tuesday were filled with signs of possible trouble for Obama and his party heading into an important midterm election year.
The exit polls showed that almost a third of voters described themselves as independents -- the crown jewel of elections because
they often determine outcomes -- and they preferred McDonnell by almost a 2-1 margin over Deeds. The surveys also indicated that the Democrats had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his diverse coalition.
More than four in 10 voters in Virginia said their view of Obama factored into their choice on Tuesday, and those voters roughly
split between expressing support for Obama and voting against him. People who said they disapprove of Obama's job approval voted overwhelmingly Republican, and those who approve of the president favored Deeds, the Democrat.
After more than a year of recession, the economy trumped all other issues for voters in exit polls.
McDonnell and Deeds competed to succeed Gov. Tim Kaine, who is ineligible for re-election under the Virginia Constitution. The race was watched nationally because it was one of only two gubernatorial elections this year. Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, directed $6 million in DNC money into Virginia for Deeds and other Democratic candidates.
Deeds, a moderate country lawyer and state senator, never energized the party's liberal activists despite campaigning twice with Obama, who last year powered a political tsunami that swept three of Virginia's 11 U.S. House seats from the GOP. It also put both U.S. Senate seats in Democratic hands for the first time since 1970.
Republicans were in disarray after the 2008 loss but took advantage of public unease over major Obama initiatives on health care, energy and stimulus spending legislation.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Bolling Wins Re-election
Bolling was elected to a second term, defeating former state finance secretary Jody Wagner.
Unofficial returns from Tuesday's election showed Bolling easily turning back Wagner.
Bolling is the first lieutenant governor to run for re-election since Don Beyer in 1993. He is a former state senator from Hanover County and an insurance executive.
Wagner served as secretary of finance under Gov. Tim Kaine and state treasurer under former Gov. Mark Warner. She owns a gourmet popcorn shop in Virginia Beach.
The lieutenant governor is a part-time, $36,000-a-year job with two duties: presiding over the Senate and succeeding the governor.
Cuccinelli Elected Va. Attorney General
Cuccinelli, one of Virginia's most conservative legislators, has been elected attorney general.
Unofficial returns show the Republican state senator from Fairfax County defeated Democratic Del. Steve Shannon, of Fairfax, in
Cuccinelli has served in the Senate since 2002. He has been a leading opponent of abortion rights, gun control, tax increases and same-sex unions. In his campaign, however, he mostly avoided social issues and emphasized his broad range of experience as a private attorney and his early call for a special legislative session to respond to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that jeopardized drunken driving and drug prosecutions.