GOP takes new open seat in close battle for Senate

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Sen. Phillip Puckett narrowly kept his seat in southwestern Virginia coal country against a challenge from Republican Adam Light. Democratic Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke defeated Republican Del. David Nutter, and first-term Democrat John Miller withstood a bruising final barrage from Republican Mickey Chohany.

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

Puckett's race was so contentious that he renounced his party's president, Barack Obama, after Light and the GOP labeled him as Obama's man in southwestern Virginia. Obama's support for the failed cap-and-trade clean energy legislation is so unpopular in coal-mining areas that it helped defeat longtime U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher last fall.

Edwards won 56 percent of the vote over Nutter, whose base of support was Montgomery County where balloting snafus delayed final results.

Miller, the target of a last-minute GOP television ad blitz accusing him of accepting a job from an aviation services firm after supporting legislation giving the company tax breaks, won with 51.4 percent of the vote.

Democratic Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller survived a close contest with ousted state Republican Party Chairman Jeff Frederick. Puller had about 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Frederick.

Republican Tom Garrett scored the GOP's first major Senate victory, winning an open seat over Democratic businessman Bert Dodson in a sprawling rural district.

In the House, Republicans eclipsed their previous high of 64 seats attained after the 2001 election. Tuesday's results left the Democrats, who dominated the House from the end of Reconstruction until 1999, with only 32 seats. Republicans also stood to gain another seat if David Ramadan's 50-vote lead out of 10,000 cast over Democrat Mike Kondratick holds up after a possible recount.

In a House race rich in symbolism but strategically insignificant, Democratic Majority Leader Ward L. Armstrong of Henry County lost a matchup against Republican Del. Charles Poindexter.

Poindexter took about 53 percent of the vote in the Southside Virginia district.

Republicans had targeted the feisty and combative Democratic floor general, first through redistricting by moving the district he had represented for nearly 20 years 200 miles to the north, then by staking Poindexter to hundreds of thousands of dollars after Armstrong chose to take him on.

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