This article was updated at 12 p.m. Nov. 7.
While the results were closer than polls had projected, Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Libertarian Robert Sarvis Tuesday to become Virginia’s next governor.
McAuliffe won just under 48 percent of the votes, with Cuccinelli taking about 45 percent and Sarvis picking up 6.5 percent.
Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam easily won the race for lieutenant governor over Republican E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake who is known for making controversial statements.
A recount is expected in the race for attorney general. As of press time, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Dist. 26) was leading Sen. Mark Herring (D-Dist. 33) is leading by less than 700 vote after earlier results had Herring with a slight edge.
A recount is also expected in the 86th House of Delegates District in the Herndon area, where incumbent Republican Del. Tom Rust is leading challenger Jennifer Boysko by only 56 votes.
Fairfax County’s other incumbent delegates all won re-election, most by wide margins. In the 53rd District, in the Merrifield and Falls Church areas, Democrat Marcus Simon handily won his first term in the House of Delegates, taking a seat held by Del. Jim Scott, who is retiring after more than two decades in office.
Fairfax County votes were key to McAuliffe’s success. His margin of victory in the county was just under 67,000 votes and his statewide margin over Cuccinelli was 55,737 votes.
Fairfax County “is so large that is carries a disproportionate number of votes in any statewide election,” said Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University.
McAuliffe supporters in the county said they backed him due to lingering anger at the GOP over the recent government shutdown, their opposition to conservative Republicans’ stance on abortion issues or, as Mike Duda of Oak Hill said, “to keep our state away from the Tea Party.”
“I’m a big women’s issues voter,” said Herndon resident Wendy O’Connell. “I am of the age that I remember before abortion was legal. … We have to stop the Republicans.”
Many of Cuccinelli’s supporters said they were motivated by his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. As attorney general, Cuccinelli sued the federal government to try and stop the law.
“Cuccinelli as the Attorney General has fought for Virginia. I think the state is in a good position right now with jobs and the surplus, and I don’t want to lose that,” said Oak Hill resident Jane Smart.
In his acceptance speech in Tysons Corner Tuesday night, McAuliffe pledged to reach out to Republicans in the General Assembly and the people who supported his opponents.
“I hope that when we start to make progress on issues like transportation and education I can earn your trust,” he said.
While Virginia faces “daunting challenges” with its budget in the coming years, McAuliffe said, he wants to invest more in education, ensure the state makes good use of its newfound transportation funding and expand Medicaid eligibility.
The tone of McAuliffe’s acceptance speech stood in contrast to that of the election itself, which featured a slew of attack ads from both sides and confrontational debates.
The tone of the campaign was off-putting to many voters. For Marcia Fester, of Herndon, it was off-putting enough that she cast her ballot for Sarvis, though she supported Democrats in the other statewide races.
“I thought it was unfortunately typical,” she said.
“I know this has been a hard-fought race,” McAuliffe said during his accpetance speech. “Part of that was, as you know, the nature of politics, and part of it was that the attorney general and I had some very big differences on some very important issues.”
He thanked Cuccinelli for his service, calling him “a principled man.”
Cuccinelli struck a more defiant note in his concession speech, telling his supporters that the principles he has built his political career on still resonate with Virginians.
“Constitutional conservatism and free market ideas are alive in Virginia,” he said. “And the more Virginians see their liberty eroded through bigger government and an out-of-control health care law, the more brightly … that flame of liberty is going to burn in Virginia.”