GOP takes new open seat in close battle for Senate

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For more election returns from local and statewide elections across Virginia, you can find comprehensive returns here.

Roscoe Reynolds' failed bid for a fourth term in the Virginia Senate tipped the chamber closer to a GOP majority. (Photo: Associated Press)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republicans appeared on the cusp of taking control of the Virginia Senate Tuesday with at least one veteran Democrat losing to a freshman Republican senator and a seven-term Democrat trailing a Republican challenger.

In the House of Delegates, Republicans picked up at least six seats, staking them to 66 of the chamber's 100 seats, the GOP's largest House majority ever. That doesn't count a conservative independent, Del. Lacey Putney, who organizes with House Republicans and another race that was too close to call.

Democrat Roscoe Reynolds lost his bid for a fourth term to freshman GOP Sen. Bill Stanley in the Senate's marquee race, bringing the GOP to within one seat of 20-20 split in the 40-member Senate. Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling breaks Senate tie votes.

In the deciding race, Democratic Sen. Edd Houck trailed Republican Bryce Reeves by 86 votes out of nearly 45,000 cast with all precincts reporting in a race too close to call. If the lead stands, the GOP will hold a working majority on the Senate floor, but Tuesday's margin of less than one-fifth of a percentage point is subject to a recount.

Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said Wednesday he intends to cast the deciding vote in a Senate split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. That means Republicans would have an advantage on Senate committees, where the most conservative legislation has died for decades.

It appeared the Senate would be split after Tuesday's elections, with the Republican leading in the deciding race that was too close to call.

The last time an election resulted in a 20-20 split was 1996. Democrats intended to take control by having then-Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer cast the deciding vote in their favor. The parties were forced to share power when conservative Democrat Virgil Goode threatened to side with Republicans.

Under state law, the candidate who trails by a percentage point or less can ask for a recount after the results are certified on Nov. 28. The localities involved in the race pay for the recount if the results are within half a percentage point.

An evenly divided Senate gives the GOP the upper hand, but will likely yield equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans on Senate committees, which has been a perennial killing ground for most conservative bills for years.

Sen. Dick Saslaw, leader of the Senate's Democrats, sought solace that the results were not as dire as the easy Republican takeover many had predicted.

"It is what it is," he said. "A 20-20 split is considerably better than what everybody was expecting when people were predicting we could lose five to nine seats."

Stanley had a plurality of 46.8 percent of the vote, about 1.25 percentage points ahead of Reynolds, despite tea party activist Jeff Evans taking 7.6 percent of the vote from conservatives. A poor economy and persistent high unemployment in the Southside Virginia district hit hard by declines in the American furniture and textile industries made jobs the dominant issue in the marquee race.

Other targeted Democrats held on, however.


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