GOP Likely to Gain Control of Virginia State Legislature

Republicans in Virginia will likely flip control of the state Senate in an incredibly tight race that will give the GOP power over the entire legislature of the state’s Commonwealth.

The race now hinges on an unknown number of provisional ballots in the 17th district, where Republican challenger Bryce Reeves edged out his opponent, Democratic Incumbent Ed Houck, by just 86 votes. The ballots will be counted on Wednesday.

If Reeve holds onto his lead, then the GOP will have picked up two seats in the state Senate on Tuesday night, splitting the Senate’s composition evenly — 20 Republicans to 20 Democrats — with the state’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling serving as the tie-breaking vote when needed. The state Senate was the last hold out for Republicans in Virginia, who already controlled the state House and the Governorship.

Patterns have shown that off-year races in Virginia tend to serve as a barometer for the political fortunes of Republicans and Democrats in the following, even numbered year. In 2003 Republicans won a solid control in the state Senate — 24 to 16. The following year the state went red for George W. Bush in the general election.

In 2005 Democrat Tim Kaine was elected Governor, and in 2006 Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Senator George Allen. The trend continued in 2007 when the Democrats took control of Virginia’s Senate from Republicans, winning a razor thin margin of 21-19. In 2008 the Commonwealth went blue when Barack Obama became the first Democratic Presidential candidate to win the state since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Regardless of Wednesday’s outcome, the take-away of this race remains the same — the narrowness of Tuesday’s state Senate victories portends equally narrow margins for both the Presidential and U.S. Senate races in this very important swing state in 2012.

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