Wexton, Luria, Spanberger Defeat Incumbents in Virginia, Flip US House Seats for Democrats

Three Virginia Democrats won U.S. House races against incumbent Republicans, including Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, whose race against U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock in the 10th Congressional District was one of the most closely watched races from the area.

Their victories helped determine the balance of power in the U.S. House.

Republicans Lose Virginia 10th House District to Wexton

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“We sent a message that we want a better nation, that we demand a better nation,” Wexton said in her victory speech. “A nation where we treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Comstock, who's served two terms, was long considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress. Wexton labeled her "Trumpstock" in political ads, though Comstock tried hard to emphasize her independence from President Donald Trump.

She distanced herself from the president on some key issues like health care — she voted against the American Health Care Act, which would have repealed "Obamacare" — and imposing sanctions on Russia. At a televised roundtable with Trump in February, she told Trump a government shutdown was a bad idea for her constituents, some of whom work for the federal government. But she voted in line with Trump's agenda 97.8 percent of the time, putting her among the most consistently pro-Trump members of Congress, according to a tally kept by news outlet FiveThirtyEight.

Trump suggested Wednesday her attempt to distance herself from him cost her the race.

Decision 2018: Live Election Results

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"I mean, I think she could’ve won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace," he said. "For that, I don’t blame her. But she lost, substantially lost." 

Female voters were key to this race. Comstock underscored her role in the national spotlight as a leader on the issue of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Wexton, a former Loudoun County prosecutor, emphasized her support that helped get Medicaid expansion passed in Virginia.

Loudoun and Fairfax counties delivered the win for Wexton.

This seat has been held by a Republican for 60 of the past 66 years, but Hillary Clinton won the district by 10 percentage points, and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won by 11.

Luria Flips House District 2 for Democrats

Democrat Elaine Luria defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia on Tuesday in a closely watched race that represents a swift turnaround from the incumbent's lopsided victory just two years ago.

Luria's win in Virginia's coastal 2nd District appears to have benefited from voter antipathy toward President Donald Trump and a ballot-fraud scandal that tainted Taylor's campaign over the summer.

"For a while now, we've had leaders in Washington who don't share the values of coastal Virginia," Luria said after claiming victory.

She also had the military background that's vital for running in a region that is home to the world's biggest Navy base and one of the nation's largest veteran populations. Luria is a former Navy commander who spent 20 years in the service and once led a combat-ready unit of 400 sailors.

Just two years ago, Taylor won by a margin of almost 23 percentage points in the traditionally Republican district that spans Virginia's entire coast and includes Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

The former Navy SEAL supported the Republican tax law and a Republican attempt in 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, two positions Luria repeatedly criticized. She has also promised to help calm the "chaos" in President Trump's Washington.

Taylor was considered a good fit for many voters in this libertarian-leaning district, but he found himself in a race that had grown extremely tight by September.

State Democrats, including Gov. Ralph Northam, had made some gains in the 2nd District in 2017. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured resources behind Luria in its quest to flip the district and retake the U.S. House.

Luria's resume also played a key role. And then there was the ballot-fraud scandal that clouded Taylor's campaign.

A handful of Taylor's staff members were accused of forging signatures to place independent candidate Shaun Brown, a former Democrat, on the ballot. The effort was widely seen as a strategy by Republicans to siphon votes away from Luria.

Democrats successfully sued to remove Brown from the race. A judge had found evidence of "out-and-out fraud" among the ballot petitions for Brown that were submitted by some of Taylor's staff members.

A criminal investigation is ongoing. But Taylor has maintained that he knew nothing of any wrongdoing and fired campaign staff tied to the scandal.

Spanberger Wins House District 7

Newcomer Abigail Spanberger has 50 percent of the vote to 49 percent for two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Brat.

"We succeeded at the polls tonight because voters rejected the politics of hate, the politics of division and the politics of ideology," said Spanberger, a former CIA officer.

Republicans have held this seat in the Richmond-area since 1971.

Brat touted the strong economy and tax cuts under Trump and portrayed Spanberger as a radical liberal and often compared her to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Brat was a tea party favorite who scored a huge upset four years ago when he defeated then-U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Spanberger cast herself as a moderate during the race and slammed Brat for being out of touch with voters in the district.

Spanberger benefitted from a strong performance in their only debate.

Riggleman Wins House District 5

The Republicans held on to this district, which stretches from Northern Virginia hunt country through Charlottesville down to southside Virginia and the North Carolina line.

The seat is currently held by first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, who ended his re-election bid in May after announcing he planned to seek treatment for alcoholism.

Distillery owner and Air Force veteran Denver Riggleman, a Republican, defeated Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a former investigative journalist and producer for “60 Minutes,” in a district Trump won by 11 percentage points.

Riggleman, in a phone interview with the Associated Press, acknowledged he was surprised by his comfortable margin of victory. He said he thinks he was able to connect with voters in the district by speaking plainly and directly with them.

"I'm a conservative ... but I don't think we have to be so polarized to get things done," he said.

Incumbent Wittman Wins House District 1

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman defeated Vangie Williams, the only African-American challenger to an incumbent Republican Congress member in Virginia this year.

Beyer Retains House District 8

Incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer retained his seat. He ran against Republican Thomas Oh, who served overseas in the U.S. Army and serves as a captain in the Army Reserves. Oh works in project management.

Connolly Retains House District 11

Incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly also retained his seat. He was challenged by Republican Jeff Dove, who served in the U.S. Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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