Incumbent Mark Warner has claimed victory in a Virginia U.S. Senate race some say is still too close to call.
His opponent, Republican Ed Gillespie, held the lead during much of the night’s tallying, but late-posted vote totals in Fairfax County and elsewhere helped Warner close the gap and pull ahead by a very slim margin. Late last night their vote difference was for a time in the hundreds, with the percentage differing by a few hundredths of a percent.
The State Board of Elections‘ final update of the night, which came just before 2am with 99.2 percent of precincts reporting, show Warner with 1,067,342 votes, or 49.11 percent, and Gillespie with 1,050,534, or 48.34 percent. The SBE website was plagued with server problems throughout the night, requiring poll watchers to wait for regularly released PDFs of precinct results and scroll through hundreds of pages to find statewide updates.
It was an unexpectedly narrow margin. Warner, who finished his term as Virginia governor in 2006 with high approval ratings and has remained a popular politician in the Commonwealth, had been the expected winner.
“It was a hard-fought race,” Warner said his late-night speech. “It went on a little longer than we thought, but we know in Virginia about close races.”
Gillespie has not yet conceded the race, and in his election-night speech, he indicated he would ask for a recount—something Virginia election law allows for when a margin of victory is less than 1 percent.
“Unfortunately some campaigns last longer than others, and I’m going to need a little more hard work,” Gillespie said.
The race for the 5th District House of Representatives race was far less intense. Republican incumbent Robert Hurt easily defended his seat against Democrat Lawrence Gaughan, with Hurt taking nearly 61 percent of the vote to Gaughan’s 36 percent. Libertarian Paul Jones snagged 2 percent, and independent candidate Kenneth Hildebrandt took 1 percent.