- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A Republican attorney from Lynchburg defeated two challengers Tuesday in a special election for a central Virginia Senate seat, a victory that ensured the legislature’s upper chamber will remain in GOP control.

Results in the 22nd Senate District race were still being tallied late Tuesday night, but the campaign manager for Democrat Ryant Washington said Washington had conceded to Republican Mark Peake.

Unofficial, incomplete results from the state Department of Elections showed Peake with a commanding lead. With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, he had about 54 percent, Washington had about 38 percent and independent conservative Joe Hines had about 8 percent. Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes said results were delayed because too few ballots were printed in Lynchburg, and the backup ballots had to be hand-counted.

The typically GOP-leaning 22nd District runs west from Goochland County to Amherst County and includes part of the city of Lynchburg. The election was being held to replace Republican Tom Garrett, who was elected to Congress in November, and Democrats had been hopeful that Washington, a former Fluvanna County sheriff, could flip the seat.

It was one of two up for grabs Tuesday, with the other in the heavily Democratic-leaning 9th District, where Republicans didn’t field a candidate and Del. Jennifer McClellan easily beat Libertarian Corey Fauconier. If Democrats had won both seats, each party would have had 20 members in the Senate, effectively giving Democrats control because of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s status as a tiebreaker.

Peake grew up in Roanoke and has lived in Lynchburg for decades. He works as a private practice attorney and campaigned with the slogan “more freedom and less government,” saying he wanted to make the state more business friendly.

He said in an interview Tuesday night that he was thankful for all the voters who turned out to cast a ballot on a cold January day, and he pledged to work with everyone in the district, not just his supporters.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility that I take very seriously,” he said.

In Tuesday’s third special election, Virginia Beach voters in the 85th House District picked Republican N.D. “Rocky” Holcomb over Democratic schoolteacher Cheryl Turpin to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor.

The General Assembly is set to convene Wednesday, when the new members will be sworn in.

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