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Virginia Democrats score key wins in congressional races

November 7, 2018
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Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., carries his ballot to the vote counting machine as he votes in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Kaine is running against Republican Corey Stewart. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia voters reproached President Donald Trump for the second year in row as Democrats flipped three congressional races and scored a convincing victory in a U.S. Senate race.

Democrats won GOP-held districts in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the Richmond area, boosted by suburban voters unhappy with the president. The Virginia victories helped put Democrats on track to take control of the U.S. House.

All three Democratic congressional victories were by women, two of whom are new to politics.

“We succeeded at the polls tonight because voters rejected the politics of hate, the politics of division and the politics of ideology,” said Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer.

She knocked off Republican Dave Brat in a Richmond-area district. Brat was a tea party favorite who scored a major upset four years ago when he defeated then-U.S. Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary.

In Hampton Roads, Elaine Luria defeated Republican Rep. Scott Taylor. Luria, a former Navy commander, had never run for office before, like Spanberger.

A former Navy SEAL, Taylor was viewed by many as up and comer in the GOP who had potential for future statewide run.

Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, another rising star in the GOP, lost her Northern Virginia seat to state Sen. Jennifer Wexton.

“I’ve been saying that change is coming. ... That change came tonight,” Wexton told hundreds of cheering supporters after she won.

Spanberger and Luria notched narrow victories. Wexton and Sen. Tim Kaine, who defeated Republican Corey Stewart to secure a second term, won easily.

Democrats controlled only four out of 11 congressional seats in Virginia prior to Tuesday. Now they are set to control seven seats to the GOP’s four.

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.

Health care and immigration were top issues in voters’ mind in this election, according to a wide-ranging survey of the electorate. And nearly 7 in 10 voters said Trump was a reason for their vote.

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.

Republicans tried in varying degrees to separate themselves from Trump and focus on a growing economy.

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.

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.

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.

A Republican also won a special election in a Roanoke-area state House district, allowing the GOP to hold on to a narrow majority in the House of Delegates.

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Barakat reported from Chantilly, Virginia. Associated Press writers Ben Finley contributed from Norfolk, Virginia and Denise Lavoie contributed from Goochland, Virginia.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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