November 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
McAuliffe defeats Cuccinelli in Virginia governor’s race
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Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally with President Obama in Arlington, Va., on Nov. 3, 2013. (Photo by Lee Whitman)

TYSONS CORNER, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s hotly contested gubernatorial race.

With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, McAuliffe narrowly defeated Cuccinelli by a 48-45 percent margin. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis came in third with nearly seven percent of the vote.

“Over the next four years, most Democrats and Republicans want to make Virginia a model for pragmatic leadership that is friendly to job creation; a model for strong schools that prepare students for jobs of tomorrow; a model for welcoming the best and the brightest scientists and innovators no matter your race, gender, religion or whom you love,” McAuliffe told supporters at the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner who included Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine after CNN and other news outlets declared him the winner.

Cuccinelli again stressed during his concession speech that he feels the election was a referendum on the Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed in 2010.

“Despite being outspent by an unprecedented $15 million, this race came down to the wire because of Obamacare,” Cuccinelli told supporters in Richmond. “That message will go out across America tonight.”

McAuliffe defeated Cuccinelli by double-digit margins in Alexandria, Fairfax City and Falls Church and Arlington and Fairfax Counties. The former DNC chair beat his Republican opponent in Loudoun County by a 50-45 percent margin.

Sarvis told reporters after he and his wife voted at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria on Tuesday that his campaign was “pleased with the motivation of our supporters.”

“I’m probably the only person who can say I’m very proud of the campaign we ran,” he said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell is among those who congratulated McAuliffe.

“There is no higher honor than serving in the same office once held by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Virginia is a commonwealth of tremendous history and opportunity; this is the place where America began. The privilege of serving as governor carries with it immense responsibility. And I know Terry McAuliffe will act in the best interests of the more than eight million people who call Virginia home.”

GOP statewide ticket faced criticism over LGBT rights record

Cuccinelli faced persistent criticism from gay advocates and Democrats over his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and other LGBT-specific issues during the campaign. These include his unsuccessful effort to appeal a court ruling earlier this year that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

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Ken Cuccinelli talks with reporters at Eagle View Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., on Nov. 5, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Cuccinelli told reporters outside Eagle View Elementary School in Fairfax earlier on Tuesday that taxes, the economy and the Affordable Care Act were the top three issues about which voters had asked him. The GOP gubernatorial candidate also said he received questions about his television ads.

“That’s where peoples’ focus is,” Cuccinelli said. “On a day like this — much like the rest of the campaign — we try to talk to voters about what they care about.”

Advocates were quick to point out after the Republican Party of Virginia nominated E.W. Jackson as their lieutenant gubernatorial candidate that he had previously compared gay men to pedophiles. The Chesapeake minister has also described gays and lesbians as “very sick people.”

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Jackson by a 55-45 percent margin.

“Marriage equality and equality’s for all people,” Northam told the Washington Blade during a Nov. 1 interview. “It’s just the sensible way to go in my view.”

State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) leads state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general by a 541 vote margin.

Republican Party of Virginia Chair Pat Mullins on Tuesday initially congratulated Obenshain for his “win” when the GOP candidate was ahead of Herring by roughly 7,500 votes, but the race remains too close to call.

“Election Day is over and I am honored to have a majority of Virginians cast their ballots for me for attorney general,” Herring said in a statement his campaign released early on Wednesday.

LGBT rights advocates welcome Va. election results

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LGBT rights advocates cheered at the Virginia Democratic Party post-election party in Tyson’s Corner on Nov. 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) described McAuliffe and Northam’s wins as a “clear victory for equality” that brings “the promise of a new day for Virginia.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” Ebbin said. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

Ashley Smith of the Human Rights Campaign is among those with the organization who canvassed on behalf of McAuliffe in Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Hampton Roads area in the final weeks of the campaign. Many of them held signs and wore t-shirts that read “Virginia is for lovers of equality” as they awaited the election results in Tysons Corner.

“It was a great feeling,” Smith told the Blade after McAuliffe and Northam spoke to their supporters. “It’s time to change Virginia.”

Poll worker Dennis McNaughton told the Blade outside Christ Lutheran Church in Fairfax on Tuesday that GOP voters with whom he had spoken saw social issues as important going into the election.

“If you don’t have a moral upbringing and moral standard you’re kind of lost,” he said, referring to marriage rights for same-sex couples and abortion. “All those things, they lead to extinction.”

Catherine Read, a member of Equality Virginia’s Board of Directors who worked outside the same Fairfax polling place as McNaughton on Tuesday, noted to the Blade that Democrats who cast their ballots expressed concern over the Republican candidates’ opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians and their positions on women’s reproductive health.

“There’s a lot of people focused on social issues,” Read said.

Fisette re-elected to Arlington County Board

Gay Arlington County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette on Tuesday easily defeated Green Party challenger Audrey Clement.

Pro-LGBT state Dels. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) and Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) easily won re-election. Atif Qarni lost to state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), co-sponsor of the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that Virginia voters approved in 2006, by a 48-52 percent margin.

State Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax County) defeated challenger Jerry Foltz.

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Libertarian Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis with his wife at a polling station in Alexandria, Va., on Nov. 5, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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