Northam Wins Virginia Governor’s Race

Virginia Democrats win lieutenant governor, attorney general races

Democrat Ralph Northam handily won the hard-fought Virginia governor's race over Republican Ed Gillespie, a contest watched across the country as an early referendum on President Donald Trump.

"Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we do not condone hatred and bigotry,” Northam said in his victory speech.

Democrats also won Virginia's lieutenant governor and attorney general offices.

Justin Fairfax defeated Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel to succeed Lt. Gov. Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring held off a challenge from Republican John Adams.

Gillespie said he wishes Northam success in the governor's mansion. In his concession speech, Gillespie wiped tears from his eyes. He said he called Northam to offer his support in any way he could.

Democrats were eager to prove they could convert anti-Trump energy into success at the polls, while Republicans looked to show they have a winning blueprint in a blue-leaning state. Virginia is the only southern state Trump lost last year.

Polls showed a tight race to succeed Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, but Northam was projected to win shortly after 8 p.m., just over an hour after Virginia polls closed at 7 p.m. 

Despite his early morning tweets supporting Gillespie, Trump distanced himself from the Republican candidate once Northam was named the winner.

"Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for," Trump tweeted. 

Voter turnout was strong. As of 10:16 p.m. Tuesday, more than 2.5 million votes had been counted in the governor's election, NBC News reported. In 2013, 2,240,314 votes were cast, and in 2009, 1,984,934 voted.

The NAACP and officials in Fairfax County say voters in northern Virginia received phone calls falsely saying that voters' polling places had changed. 

The Prince William County chapter of the NAACP wrote on its Facebook page Monday that the calls were fraudulent and an attempt to suppress the vote as Virginians picked a new governor. The NAACP said the out-of-area calls were reported in Prince William County, as well as in Manassas and Manassas Park. 

Reports of similar calls were also received in Fairfax County, a county spokeswoman said Tuesday afternoon. 

The NAACP said voter protection services were made aware of the issue.

There were a handful of local elections in Maryland, including for mayor of College Park and Greenbelt City Council. Polls closed in Maryland at 8 p.m.

Virginia voters said they were driven to the polls by a wide range of issues.

At Jahnke Road Baptist Church in suburban Richmond, 39-year-old Angelica Bega said she wasn't sure who she would vote for until she was handed a ballot, but she ultimately voted for Northam.

As an "issues-driven voter," she said it was "very frustrating" to see so many attack ads. She said Gillespie's attempt to make immigration such a big part of the campaign frustrated her and was a factor in her decision to vote for his opponent.

Emogene and Jimmy Babb, both 74, voted straight Republican at a rural polling station in Windsor, Virginia.

They said there wasn't any one particular issue that drove them to the polls. But they said they shared Gillespie's positions on gun rights and not removing Confederate statues.

"We don't need a governor who is going to take our guns away,'' Jimmy Babb said.

Northam Elected Governor of Virginia

Virginia appeared to have the nation's only competitive governor's race this year. Front-running Democrat Pat Murphy appeared to have an easier path to victory in New Jersey, where Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno contended with the unpopularity of Trump and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. 

Gillespie, a White House adviser to President George W. Bush and multimillionaire lobbyist, ran on lower taxes, tougher policies toward immigrants in the state illegally, and preserving the state's Confederate statues. 

Lt. Gov. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, promised to continue many of the policies of current Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is barred from seeking a second term due to the state's term limit. Northam championed increased spending on public education, tighter gun rules and strong support for abortion rights. 

Most polls showed a close contest, and both candidates were helped by big names. Former President Barack Obama held a rally with Northam and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton helped him raise money. 

Bush appeared at three fundraisers for Gillespie, who also campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Unlike other high-profile elections this year, Trump kept out of the race except for a few tweets in support of Gillespie and robocalls recorded to help boost Gillespie's candidacy on Election Day. In one call, Trump said Gillespie shared his views on immigration and crime and would help "Make America Great Again."

Trump still was a dominant factor in the race. Democrats tried to cast the gubernatorial contest as a way for voters to send a message against Trump. Northam dubbed Gillespie, a former Washington lobbyist and Republican National Committee chairman, as "Trump's lobbyist." 

On the Republican side, Gillespie has kept Trump at an arm's distance while mimicking his policies on certain social issues. In particular, he pledged tougher policies for immigrants in the country illegally and blasted his Democratic opponents for support of so-called sanctuary cities. Gillespie also criticized Northam for favoring the removal of the state's Confederate monuments.

Libertarian Cliff Hyra ran on a campaign platform of protecting personal freedoms and limiting government power. 

Herring Wins Second Term as Virginia Attorney General

Republican John Adams lost his challenge to Democratic incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring in the only attorney general contest in the country this year.

Herring said his victory and a wide-ranging Democratic win in Virginia “sent a message that will be heard across this country and around the world.”

“We have rejected the politics of fear and division,” Herring told supporters at a Democratic victory celebration, in an apparent reference to Republican President Donald Trump's election a year ago.

In a news release, Herring said Virginia voters “looked at the results of 2016 and said we need to set the ship right.”

“Tonight, Virginians said, ‘This is the way back,’” Herring said.

Adams conceded the race to Herring just before 9 p.m.

“The ideas that we stand for are timeless. There are bumps in the road. But the road continues,” Adams said in a speech to supporters.

Adams, a former federal prosecutor, made his first run for political office. Herring, a former state senator, won his second term as Virginia's top lawyer. 

Herring drew national attention early in his first term when he said he would not defend a 2006 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Virginia. Adams, an opponent of gay marriage, sharply criticized Herring during the campaign for refusing to defend a measure approved by Virginia voters and the state legislature. 

Adams called Herring's switch a political calculation and said the state's attorney general should defend the state's laws, no matter what his personal beliefs.

“That is an unbelievable position for a lawyer to take,” Adams said during the second of two debates. “He got on the other side and sued his own client.”

Herring said his position was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down gay marriage bans as unconstitutional.

Herring portrayed Adams as a staunch conservative out of touch with most Virginians on social issues, including gay marriage, women's access to contraception and gun control. 

Herring served as a state senator for eight years before being elected attorney general in 2013. Adams is a corporate defense lawyer who works for McGuireWoods, one of the most powerful law firms in Virginia. 

Democrat Justin Fairfax Wins Virginia Lieutenant Governor's Race

Democrat Justin Fairfax and Republican Jill Vogel competed for a largely ceremonial position that's often a stepping stone to higher office. 

“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Fairfax said to hundreds of cheering supporters at a statewide victory party at George Mason University in Fairfax. “We are changing the course of history in this commonwealth.”

Fairfax, who served a two-year stint as a federal prosecutor in Alexandria, has long been interested in politics. After graduating from Duke University, he worked as a briefing coordinator for Tipper Gore during her husband Al's 2000 presidential campaign. He also worked on the staff of then-Sen. John Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat. He made his first run for office four years ago, narrowly losing the Democratic nomination for attorney general to Herring.

He is the second African American to win statewide office in Virginia after Gov. Doug Wilder.

Vogel, a state senator from Fauquier County and attorney for right-leaning causes, cast herself as a Trump supporter with bipartisan credentials who puts "principle before party." She touted her willingness to break with her party in supporting an openly gay judge, on environmental issues, and on low-profile but important issues such as redistricting reform. 

Fairfax made a campaign issue of legislation Vogel sponsored in 2012 that would have required women to receive an ultrasound before getting an abortion.

In her concession speech in Richmond, Vogel said her campaign "talked about things that actually matter to Virginians and inspire Virginians." Moving forward, she said they would "not be about division" and continue to be about "solutions."

The lieutenant governor, a part-time position, involves presiding over the state Senate and breaking tied votes. 

Democrats, Women Make Gains in Virginia House of Delegates

All 100 seats in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates were up, and Democrats picked up at least 14 seats. Five races are too close to call and may require recounts, but if the leader as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday wins, the House of Delegates will have a 50-50 split with a Democrat lieutenant governor to cast tie-breaking votes.

Sixty seats were being contested by candidates of both major parties, more than in any year for at least two decades. Most observers didn't think Democrats will be able to pick up the seats they need to retake control of the lower chamber, expecting them to chip away at only a handful. 

A number of women won tonight including seven in northern Virginia who beat incumbent Republican candidates. Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman will be the first two Latina women elected to the House.

In the Virginia House, Democrat Danica Roem became the state's first openly transgender lawmaker, after a campaign against longtime incumbent Republican Bob Marshall received national attention. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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