- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2018

GOP Rep. Dave Brat officially conceded Wednesday in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District race, cementing a new 7-4 Democratic majority in the state’s House delegation as Old Dominion Republicans were left searching for answers after another tough election night.

Four years after taking down former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Mr. Brat suffered his own shocking defeat at the hands of Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a first-time candidate and former CIA case officer.

Mr. Brat insisted he followed through on his campaign pledges, touting the GOP’s tax cuts and boosts in military spending as he acknowledged Wednesday there was no path left to victory in the tight race.

“In the face of millions and millions of dollars of money from around this country that poured into Virginia to attack my record, I stayed true to my principles and did what I told the voters I would do,” Mr. Brat said in a statement.

In another surprising result, Democrat Elaine Luria ousted GOP Rep. Scott Taylor in the southeastern 2nd District — a seat he had won by more than 20 percentage points two years ago and one that prognosticators said was leaning his way ahead of Election Day.

Democrat Jennifer Wexton defeated GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock in the 10th District race, while Republican Denver Riggleman kept the 5th District seat in GOP hands with a win over Democrat Leslie Cockburn in another contest Democrats had eyed as a potential pickup.

But when the dust settles, Virginia’s House delegation will flip to a 7-4 Democratic advantage from what had been an 8-3 Republican edge just a few years ago.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine easily defeated Republican challenger Corey Stewart to win a second term, extending the GOP’s nearly decade-long drought in statewide races in Virginia.

Tuesday’s election results were “not a good omen,” said Rick Buchanan, who chairs the Virginia Tea Party.

“We are a blue state, and we’ve got to figure out a way to get it back to a red state,” he said. “But that’s where we are.”

Mr. Buchanan called Mr. Brat “a heck of a representative.”

“He went in — similar to Trump, he did everything he said he was going to do. He fulfilled all the promises he made in his campaign,” he said. “His problem is he’s a conservative, evidently.”

Riding the Obama wave in 2008, Virginia Democrats enjoyed a short-lived 6-5 majority in the state’s House delegation after flipping three GOP-held seats. But Democratic Reps. Tom Perriello, Glenn Nye and Rick Boucher lost their seats in the 2010 GOP wave, which helped cement a Republican majority until this year.

Distaste for President Trump in many corners of the state and shifting demographics were among the factors in Tuesday’s results, said Peter Rousselot, a past candidate for chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

“The Richmond suburbs that are in the 7th Congressional District have been expanding over time and getting more and more moderate voters into them,” he said. “That was combined with the fact that after the Trump election in 2016, you had a huge new injection of energy, particularly from women who had not been involved in state politics previously.”

Ms. Wexton has served in the state Senate, but Ms. Spanberger and Ms. Luria, a former Navy commander, were first-time candidates, as was Ms. Cockburn.

“It really cements, basically, the urban crescent effect in Virginia,” Mr. Rousselot said, referring to the Democratic strongholds of Northern Virginia, Richmond and parts of Hampton Roads.

Mr. Rousselot also noted that Democrats ran headlong into a “red wall” in some of the more rural areas like the southwestern 9th Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith cruised to reelection over Democrat Anthony Flaccavento by about 30 percentage points.

“Democrats really have to reconsider what their strategy’s going to be in rural parts of the state,” he said.

At the same time, he said Republicans are unlikely to have success in statewide races as long as Mr. Trump is in office.


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