- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 2, 2010

RICHMOND | Republican challengers unseated three Democratic House members, including a 14-term incumbent and a protege of President Obama, in a conservative whiplash election.

Tuesday’s GOP triumphs repudiated a Democratic rout just two years ago paced by Obama’s historic victory.

In Virginia, as across the nation, conservatives, libertarians and “tea party” backers rejected big-government initiatives wrought by Democrats who won overwhelmingly two years ago on a campaign of change.

With 99 percent of the votes counted, Republican Morgan Griffith, the Virginia House majority leader, had 51 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher, who was first elected in 1982. An independent, Jeremiah Heaton, had 2 percent.

Meanwhile in Northern Virginia, Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly held about a 700-vote lead over Republican challenger Keith Fimian. With 98 percent of precincts reporting in the 11th District, each had 49 percent of the vote.

In the Hampton Roads 2nd District, wealthy Republican car dealer Scott Rigell won 53 percent of the vote, and freshman Rep. Glenn Nye, a moderate Democrat won 43 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

And in a race regarded as a clear referendum on Mr. Obama and the Democrat-led Congress, state Sen. Robert Hurt had about 51 percent of the vote to Rep. Tom Perriello’s 47 percent, with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Independent Jeffrey Clark got about 2 percent.

Mr. Perriello’s candidacy always had strong parallels to the White House because Mr. Perriello backed key Obama initiatives such as health care reform, the cap-and-trade energy bill and the economic stimulus bill.

On Friday, Mr. Obama took ownership of the race when he campaigned for Mr. Perriello in Charlottesville, the only such trip the president made this year for an individual House Democrat.

Except for a challenge in 1984, Mr. Boucher had won re-election easily in the coal-country district of mountainous southwestern Virginia. He usually carried the district with 60 percent of the vote or more.

But his vote this year for cap-and-trade legislation aimed at cutting carbon emissions left him vulnerable. Mr. Griffith and allied independent groups that don’t disclose their donors attacked the vote as a betrayal of the coal industry and called it a job-killing national energy tax.

Some incumbents won easily, including Rep. Eric Cantor, the likely House majority leader now that the Republican Party has won control of the House. That would make Mr. Cantor the second-most powerful House member.

Mr. Cantor called the results a wake-up call for the Obama White House. The Republican takeover, he said, means the agenda that made Mr. Obama victorious in 2008 will be stalemated in a conservative Congress.

“Any mandate that may be interpreted tonight is one where the people of this country reject the agenda that’s been promoted by the Democrats and the White House. I think for us as Republicans, we’re going to get a second chance,” Mr. Cantor said at a postelection gathering near his suburban Richmond home.

But Mr. Cantor said the election shows that Republicans must change.

“We Republicans are a different party than the GOP of 2006,” he said. “Our years in the minority have chastened and disciplined our party, and tonight’s elections show that the American people say it’s time for our party to stop talking and start listening.”

Others who won easy re-election over nominal opposition were Republican Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte in the 6th Congressional District, J. Randy Forbes in the 4th, Rob Wittman in the 1st, Frank R. Wolf in the 10th.

Democratic Rep. James P. Moran turned aside a little-known Republican in the 8th District, and Democrat Robert C. Scott, the state’s first black member of Congress, easily beat a black conservative Republican challenger in the 3rd District.

In other election results, voters approved proposed Virginia constitutional amendments granting property tax breaks to the elderly and disabled veterans.

The fate of a third that would determine how much cash the state could save for a rainy day was not immediately clear.

The General Assembly endorsed all three earlier this year, but voters must approve the changes before lawmakers could take the next step and pass legislation to make them permanent.

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