- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sen. Mark R. Warner held a razor-thin advantage over GOP challenger Ed Gillespie on Tuesday night after a shockingly close contest that appears all but certain to come down to a recount.

With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Warner led Mr. Gillespie by about 18,600 votes out of approximately 2.1 million cast — less than the 1 percentage point by which a recount can be requested under Virginia law.

“It was a hard-fought race. It went a little longer than we thought,” Mr. Warner told a cheering crowd at the Hilton DoubleTree in Crystal City shortly before midnight.

Mr. Warner said that at the end of the day voters want to elect people who will put partisanship aside, adding that Mr. Gillespie ran a “hard-fought campaign” and wishing him well in the future.

For his part, Mr. Gillespie did not concede Tuesday, urging patience in remarks to supporters as the final votes were tallied.

A Warner victory — albeit in a race for what had been widely considered a safe seat — would be one of the lone bright spots for Democrats on a night where Republicans re-took control of the U.S. Senate by winning a host of competitive races across the country.

Indeed, the incredibly tight contest — which few pundits foresaw — came amid national headwinds for Democrats and sagging approval ratings for Mr. Obama, to whom Mr. Gillespie and Republicans repeatedly tried to tie the incumbent throughout the race.

Gillespie sprinted to the end, Warner seemed to be running scared at the end,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.

Mr. Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to President George W. Bush, had struggled to boost his name identification in his first bid for elected office as he tried to dent Mr. Warner.

Republicans had hoped early in the cycle that Virginia would move into the top-tier races. But despite Mr. Gillespie’s strong close in a contest that had Mr. Warner leading by double digits in some polls, outside Republican groups never really showed a significant interest in boosting Mr. Gillespie.

Libertarian Robert Sarvis also ran and could end up making the difference in the race. He had about 53,000 votes, or about 2.5 percent. Mr. Sarvis took more than 6 percent of the vote in last year’s gubernatorial election in which Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II by about 2.5 percentage points.

“Voter turnout matters greatly. Too many Democrats stayed home, which is as much a reflection on Warner than Obama,” said Dan Palazzolo, professor of political science at the University of Richmond.

Opinion on the first-term senator, who built a reputation as a bipartisan dealmaker during his term as governor of Virginia from 2002-2006, was mixed for a politician who before the race routinely polled as among the most popular in the state.

“I don’t like Mark Warner. I don’t trust him at all,” said Michael Woods, a 51-year-old information technology professional, after voting at Sterling Middle School in Sterling on Tuesday. “I think he’s an Obama liberal.”

But Dr. William Metler, at Langley High School in McLean, said he voted for Mr. Warner and that he generally agrees with him on Virginia issues — but that he was also turned off by the markedly negative tone to the race.

“I was pretty disappointed about how negative the ads were,” he said. “That’s one way of voicing your stance, but that doesn’t say what you’re for.”

A Warner win would mean that both of Virginia’s U.S. Senate seats would stay in Democratic hands after Sen. Tim Kaine defeated Republican George Allen in 2012 in the race to replace former Democratic Sen. James Webb. Coupled with Mr. Webb’s upset of Mr. Allen in 2006, Mr. Warner’s victory would mark four straight wins for Democrats in U.S. Senate races in the state, including Mr. Warner’s own 2008 win over former GOP Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

The win would also back up a successful 2013 season for Virginia Democrats, when they swept the top three statewide elected offices in Virginia for the first time since 1993, though Republicans have a solid grip on the state legislature and were projected to maintain their 8-3 majority in Virginia’s U.S. House delegation.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide