Kaine wins re-election
Virginia Democrats score key wins in congressional races
RICHMOND — Virginia voters reproached President Donald Trump for the second year in row as Democrats flipped at least two congressional races and scored a convincing victory in a U.S. Senate race.
Jennifer Wexton in Northern Virginia and Elaine Luria in Hampton
Roads defeated incumbent Republicans to give Democrats six of the state’s 11 U.S. House seats. A closely watched Richmondarea contest between Republican Dave Brat and Democrat Abigail Spanberger remained too close to call.
Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine also resoundingly defeated Republican Corey Stewart, a diehard supporter of the president.
Trump was a frequent focus of the bareknuckled races.
“For a while now, we’ve had leaders in Washington who don’t share the values of coastal Virginia,” Luria said after claiming victory over Republican Scott Taylor.
Wexton, speaking to hundreds of cheering supporters, echoed similar themes.
“I’ve been saying that change is coming. ... That change came tonight,” she said.
The strong showing by Democrats highlights Virginia’s continued dislike of the president, particularly among suburban voters. Virginia served as an early indicator for anti-Trump energy during its 2017 race for governor. Democrats trounced Republicans in all three statewide races and won more seats in the state House than virtually anyone expected.
One bright spot for Republicans was Denver Riggleman, who won an open seat in central Virginia against Democrat Leslie Cockburn in a district that Trump won by 11 percentage points.
It was one of four GOP-held seats Democrats focused flipping this year.
Riggleman, in a phone interview, acknowledged he was surprised by comfortable his margin of victory. He said he thinks he was able to connect with voters in the district by speaking plainly and directly with them.
“I’m a conservative ... but I don’t think we have to be so polarized to get things done,” he said.
Trump was also on the mind of many voters.
Richard Milner, 66, who inspects private boats for insurance companies along Virginia’s coast, voted for U.S. Rep Scott Taylor and Stewart, and credits Trump and Republicans in Congress for the booming economy. He said business for him has been “rocking and rolling.”
“If we had a Democrat in there, they would be totally against whatever (Trump) wanted to do, which is more of a roadblock for the government getting things done,” said Milner, who lives in Norfolk.
Ross Noe, 55, a financial underwriter from Goochland, said he voted for Democrats as a way of sending a message of discontent with how Trump is governing.
“I am just very afraid of some of the decisions being made in Washington,” said Noe.
Kaine and Stewart had heated clashes during their three candidate debates, but the rest of the race was largely one-sided. Kaine had more than $20 million to spend on the race and blanketed the state with TV ads. Stewart had only a fraction to spend and relied mostly on social media to try and amplify his voice.
Best known for his outspoken support of Confederate imagery, Stewart is a one-time Trump state campaign chairman. But he received almost no help from the White House — Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Virginia multiple times but never campaigned with Stewart.
While Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009, Republicans were able to keep races close prior to the 2016 presidential election. Republican Ed Gillespie lost a Senate election in 2014 by less than 20,000 votes by running as a Republican moderate. Last year, Gillespie embraced much of Trump’s rhetoric on social issues and lost a race for governor by more than 230,000.
Even before Trump, the state has been shifting leftward. The change is largely a factor of demographics, as Virginia’s more liberal and diverse cities and suburbs make up an increasingly large share of the state’s population. Vote-rich Northern Virginia has been dubbed the “blue wall” that’s helped ensure Democratic victories statewide.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., carries his ballot to the vote counting machine as he votes in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Kaine won his re-election bid, running against Republican Corey Stewart.