In the first real sign that the Republicans could face a rough midterm election in 2018, Republican Ed Gillespie was easily defeated in the Virginia’s governor’s race by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.
Northam was winning by about 4 percent, with 51.5 percent of the vote, when the Associated Press called the race at 8:12 p.m. And that was even before some of the best Democratic regions in northern Virginia had reported.
The win for Northam looked so strong that the other two statewide Democrats looked like they would be swept in, too.
Justin E. Fairfax was leading Republican Jill Vogel in the lieutenant governor's race, and incumbent Attorney General Mark R. Herring was leading Republican John D. Adams in the attorney general's race.
Gillespie, a former aide to President George W. Bush, was pounded by ads late in October — ads noting that he was a former lobbyist for the disgraced energy company Enron. A group named Latino Victory also tied Gillespie to Trump, suggesting he was insensitive to minority concerns.
The strong Northam win also swept other Republicans out of office down the ballot, in the House of Delegates races. Republican delegates were swamped by Democratic challengers, and the GOP majority in the state House was in question by 8:30 p.m.
In Virginia House District 13, Democrat Danica Roem defeated Delegate Bob Marshall, a 26-year incumbent Republican, becoming the first transgender person elected to the Virginia state legislature, according to David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.
Pundits were quick to say President Donald Trump had hurt Gillespie's chances, and had hurt the down-ballot Republicans. They predicted other Republicans, much like U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), would abandon the president.
"These Virginia results — more than [Jeff] Flake speech, more than [Bob] Corker, more than Russia news — will do more to put a brake on GOP embrace of Trump than anything else," tweeted Josh Kraushaar, politics editor at National Journal. "Elections matter."
Trump weighed in early, despite being in Asia, noting Gillespie did not embrace Trump's agenda. Trump also noted that Republicans remain undefeated in four of this year's special elections for U.S. House seats.
"Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for," Trump tweeted. "Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!"
Sean Trende, an election analyst at RealClearPolitics, said most of the districts lost in delegate races had voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton beat Trump by 5.3 percent in Virginia in 2016.
Virginia has been trending Democratic since 2008, when former President Barack Obama won the state. Obama won it again in 2012. In fact, the last Republican to win a major statewide election in Virginia was during the 2009 gubernatorial election. Republicans have now lost every U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and presidential race in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and now 2017.
Last Modified: November 8, 2017, 9:36 am