- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Republicans have retained their majority in the Virginia Senate on Tuesday and dealt Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe an electoral blow with a legislature solidly controlled by the GOP heading into his final two years in office.

The Associated Press called the race for the Richmond-area 10th Senate District seat for Republican Glen Sturtevant shortly after 9 p.m. Mr. Sturtevant battled Democrat Dan Gecker in a hotly contested and expensive contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. John C. Watkins in a race that was crucial to Democrats’ chances of retaking control of the upper chamber.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Sturtevant had 50 percent of the vote and Mr. Gecker had 47 percent, the AP reported.

Heading into Tuesday, Republicans had a 21-19 advantage in the state Senate. Democrats could have taken effective control by picking up a net of at least one seat, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam serving as the tie-breaker. Independent Marleen Durfee and Libertarian Carl Loser also ran in the 10th District race.

In another close contest, Republican Hal Parrish was battling Democrat Jeremy McPike in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Charles J. Colgan to represent the 29th District, covering parts of Prince William County in the District of Columbia’s outer suburbs.

With about 53 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. McPike led Mr. Parrish 51 percent to 49 percent.

Mr. Parrish had worked to link Mr. McPike to Mr. McAuliffe’s proposal to impose tolls on high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway, while Mr. McPike got some major outside help from former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, which launched an ad campaign totaling more than $1.5 million against Mr. Parrish.

Mr. McPike also outspent Mr. Parrish by about 2-to-1 on TV ads through Nov. 2, according to a compilation by the Center for Public Integrity. The political action committee of Mr. McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also spent heavily on the race, as did others in the state.

Partisan control of the House, where Republicans had a 67-33 advantage heading into Tuesday, was never seriously in doubt.

But Mr. McAuliffe said a net pickup of one Senate seat would brighten the prospects for items on his agenda such as Medicaid expansion, gun control and state spending.

In a somewhat unusual move, the state Democratic Party circulated a memo well before the polls closed that said the election had always been an “uphill climb” and the fact that Democrats were heading into Election Day competitively was an indication of the ground they have gained.

The memo also cited “fatigue” from the seventh year of a Democratic presidency in a state where there are five statewide elected Democrats, gerrymandering, and outside spending by groups such as the National Rifle Association and Americans for Prosperity.

The party said its demographic gains are among populations that don’t typically turn out to vote, “especially in an off-off-off year.”

Though state Senate control will be important for Mr. McAuliffe’s final two years in office, both sides also got a bit of a chance to test their messages and ground game ahead of the presidential election next year. Virginia will be crucial for both parties in their quest for the White House.

“Is the Democratic coalition Obama-centric or is it Democratic-centric?” said former U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Republican who represented the Northern Virginia suburbs. “They’ve come out for Obama — they’ve never come out for anybody else. … Without [President] Obama on the ticket, how do you drive the minorities and young people out?”

Mr. Obama won about 53 percent of the vote in 2008, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state in more than 40 years, and the president won the state with 51 percent of the vote during his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

In 2012, Democrat Tim Kaine was elected to the Senate with nearly 53 percent of the vote, but both Mr. McAuliffe in 2013 and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2014 won with less than 50 percent of the vote.

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