Republicans appeared on the cusp of taking control of the Virginia Senate Tuesday with at least one veteran Democrat losing to a freshman Republican senator and a seven-term Democrat trailing a Republican challenger.
Democrat Roscoe Reynolds lost his bid for a fourth term to freshman GOP Sen. Bill Stanley in the Senate's marquee race, bringing the GOP to within one seat of 20-20 split in the 40-member Senate. Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling breaks Senate tie votes.
In the deciding race, Democratic Sen. Edd Houck trailed Republican Bryce Reeves by 86 votes out of nearly 45,000 cast with all precincts reporting in a race too close to call. If the lead stands, the GOP will hold a working majority on the Senate floor, but the narrow margin is likely subject to a recount.
All 140 seats in the General Assembly were up for grabs. If the GOP does win a Senate majority, it will be just the second time since the Civil War that all three statewide offices, the House and the Senate are in Republican hands, Carey reported.
At a polling place in Woodbridge, Va., turnout was light but steady, Carey reported. Just 15 percent of registered voters had cast ballots there by mid-afternoon. On the ballot there, veteran Democratic Sen. Toddy Puller is being challenged for her District 36 seat by former delegate and state Republican Party Chairman Jeff Frederick. With 77 percent of precincts reporting, Puller had a slight 120-vote advantage in a see-saw battle but was declared the winner.
In another see-saw battle, District 17 (Spotsylvania area) Democratic Sen. Edd Houck trailed Republican Bryce Reeves by 86 votes out of more than 44,000 cast with all precincts reporting in a race too close to call, the Associated Press reported. A recount is likely, Carey reported.
Because abortion issues are handled by the Senate Health and Education Committee, which Houck chairs, anti-abortion groups spent big money to beat him.
In District 29 in Prince William County, longtime Democratic incumbent Chuck Colgan held off a challenge from Republican Tom Gordy. Colgan, 85, who typically sits on the budget conference committees, considered retiring but was pushed to run to help Democrats hang on to the majority. With 55 percent of precincts reporting, he had 55 percent of the vote to Gordy's 45 percent.
Republicans picked up a seat in District 13 -- a new district and open seat in Loudoun and Prince William counties. Republicans saw it as one of their best chances to pick up a seat. Former delegate and anti-abortion champion Dick Black beat Democrat Shawn Mitchell. He had 57 percent of the vote with 59 percent or precincts reporting.
In District 39 in Fairfax and Prince William counties, Democrat George Barker held off a challenge from Republican Miller Baker to keep his seat. He had 55.7
Voters also cast ballots for boards of supervisors, school boards and other local offices.
In Fairfax County, there were some issues regarding voter confusion and voters going to the incorrect polling location. Election officials said they were ready for that after the state's voter database assigned some voters to the wrong precincts.
Republican Wins Battle of Incumbents
In the Senate's marquee race between Democratic and Republican incumbents, three-term Democrat Roscoe Reynolds lost a close, strategically important bid for a 4th term, the Associated Press reported.
According to unofficial totals, Reynolds had 45.6 percent of the vote to Republican Sen. Bill Stanley's 46.8 percent. Stanley won despite tea party independent Jeff Evans getting almost 8 percent of the vote.
After Democrats in control of Senate reapportionment this spring altered Stanley's old district, the freshman Franklin County senator moved his address 10 miles and challenged Reynolds. The state GOP gave Stanley more than $660,000.
Democratic Sen. Puckett Narrowly Holds on to Seat
Democratic Sen. Phillip Puckett narrowly held on to his seat in southwestern Virginia coal country against a challenge from Republican Adam Light, the AP reported.
Puckett's race was so contentious that he renounced his party's president, Barack Obama, after Light and the GOP labeled him as Obama's man in southwestern Virginia. Obama's support for the failed cap-and-trade clean energy legislation is so unpopular in coal-mining areas that it helped defeat longtime U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher last fall.
Incumbent Dem Edwards Defeats GOP Del. Nutter
Democratic Sen. John Edwards defeated Republican Delegate David Nutter in a key race for Democrats, the Associated Press reported.
Edwards received 56 percent of the vote in Tuesday's legislative elections over 44 percent for Nutter.
Spending topped more than $1 million in the race between Edwards, the four-term incumbent from Roanoke, and Nutter, who has represented Christiansburg in the House since 2002.
Democrat Incumbent Miller Wins
Sen. John Miller of Newport News has kept his state Senate seat in Democratic hands, the AP reported.
Miller received 51.4 percent of the vote to 48.6 percent for GOP challenger Mickey Chohany in Tuesday's legislative elections.
The state political parties poured money into both campaigns in hopes of ousting Miller, a first-term senator and former television journalist.
The state Republican Party spent $40,000 to air television ads last week in Hampton Roads markets accusing Miller of backing legislation that gave a tax break to an aviation firm that subsequently gave Miller a job.
Virginia House Minority Leader Armstrong Defeated
House Democratic Minority Leader Ward Armstrong has lost the seat he's held for nearly 20 years, the Associated Press reported.
In a race symbolically important to the Republicans, Del. Charles Poindexter won 53 percent of the vote over Armstrong, whom the GOP targeted both in redistricting and in heavy financial support for Poindexter.
Armstrong had represented the 10th House District since 1992, but Republicans moved it 200 miles to the north, forcing the Henry County Democrat to take on Poindexter in a Republican-friendly 9th District.
Armstrong had been minority leader since 2007. He took heat from some Democrats because he tried to distance himself from President Obama in a district that is home to the state's highest unemployment rates.