A week after the 2013 elections, there’s one incredibly close race the political world is watching with great interest: who’ll be Virginia’s new state attorney general?
The vote-counting process ended last night, and as the dust settled, Democrat Mark Herring finished with 163 more votes than Republican Mark Obenshain – out of more than 2.2 million votes cast. Overnight, Herring declared victory.
So, is that it? Of course not. Given the margin, Obenshain has not conceded the race – it stands to reason that if the roles were reversed, Herring wouldn’t concede, either – and a statewide recount is probably inevitable. That, however, can’t begin until these preliminary tallies are certified, and that won’t happen until Nov. 25.
My MSNBC colleague Jessica Taylor raised an important point about the larger context.
A week after the polls closed, the apparent victory for Herring meant that all three races in Virginia had gone to the Democrats. Terry McAuliffe’s victory in the gubernatorial race was closer than expected. (Ralph Northam scored a solid win for lieutenant governor.) Still, though it wasn’t a blow-out, the Democratic sweep attested to the changing demographics of the state – and perhaps also lingering post-shutdown anti-GOP feeling in a state that is heavily dependent on federal jobs.
Democrats haven’t won all three statewide races in Virginia since 1989, and it’s the first time in four decades that Virginia will have a Democratic governor, Democratic lieutenant governor, Democratic attorney general, and two Democratic U.S. senators.
How many other Southern states have this makeup? Zero.
And for what it’s worth President Obama carried the commonwealth twice – the only Southern state that Obama won twice that Clinton lost twice.
It’s a stretch to start looking at Virginia as some kind of Democratic stronghold; it’s not. Not only were many of these recent races very competitive, but Republicans have also fared far better in elections for the General Assembly.
But when it comes to statewide races, it’s probably fair to start characterizing Virginia as a purple-leaning-blue sort of state, which appears unlikely to change anytime soon.
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