Virginia Republicans look set to hold onto their Senate majority in the Old Dominion, amid aggressive campaigning by Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
It is a big defeat for McAuliffe, a close ally for Hillary Clinton, and a big defeat for New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who donated heavily to Democrats in the hope of winning the Virginia electoral fights on a promise of more gun-control.
Republicans beat back two serious challengers Tuesday, holding onto seats in the suburbs of Richmond and the Hampton Roads area.
In another hotly contested race, Republican Hal Parrish holds a lead over Democrat Jerry McPike. If Parrish holds onto his lead, it would represent a Republican gain, as the two are battling to replace a retiring Democrat.
McAuliffe, with considerable help from Bloomberg, bet his political capital on Democrats winning the upper Chamber. But he seems to have fallen far short.
Republicans currently hold a 2-seat majority in the state Senate. Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the state House.
Bloomberg was hoping to capitalize on the tragic shooting of two Virginia TV reporters by a disgruntled newsman earlier this Summer. He pumped millions into the race for two critical state Senate seats. As a result, both Democrats were able to dramatically outspend their Republican rivals.
Bloomberg and his SuperPAC, Everytown for Gun Safety, hoped to show that Democrats could win on the issue of gun control. Also, Gov. McAuliffe had made enacting new restrictions on gun ownership a centerpiece of his campaigning for Democrats around the state.
McAuliffe also campaigned aggressively for expanding Medicaid through ObamaCare and implementing universal preschool. All three issues have been top priorities for McAuliffe’s tenure as governor. Barred from running for reelection, McAuliffe will now face a united Republican legislature for his final two years in office.
His policy agenda, and Bloomberg’s push for gun control, are dead in Richmond. McAuliffe’s inability to deliver the closely divided Senate for Democrats also raises questions of how effective he can be for Hillary Clinton next year. In many ways, this legislative election turned on issues central to her campaign.