Nov. 6, 2012— -- ABC News projects that Democrat Tim Kaine will win the open Virginia Senate seat, staving off a potential Republican gain in a critical battleground state.
The race was a key component of Democrats' hopes to hold on to their majority in the Senate, as well as keep both of Virginia's Senate seats in Democratic hands.
It was also the most expensive Senate race in the country, including outside spending, according to the independent Campaign Finance Institute. Outside groups spent more than $51.4 million on both sides, in addition to the $17.4 million raised by Kaine and the $12.5 million raised by Allen.
The winner replaces retiring Democrat Jim Webb, who successfully unseated Allen in the 2006 election after one term.
Several polls conducted in the past week showed the race as a razor-thin margin.
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Today's voter turnout was so heavy and produced such long lines that the state elections board delayed the reporting of results.
"Many voters remain in lines in certain areas of the Commonwealth and will be able to cast votes if in line before the close of polls at 7:00 p.m," the State Board of Elections said in a statement. "In consultation with officials from both the Republican and Democratic Party, the Virginia State Board of Elections has agreed to pause reporting until 8:00 p.m. to ensure voters are not unduly influenced by preliminary results. Results will commence shortly thereafter."
Regardless of their vote choice, more Virginia voters today said they had a more favorable view of Kaine than Republican candidate George Allen, according to preliminary exit poll results. The gap grew among women voters.
Allen was doing as well among independents today as he did in his winning Senate election of 2000, leading in this group by about 20 points. He'd lost the independent vote in his 2006 re-election bid.
Similarly, Allen was doing as well among white Catholics now as he did in his winning 2000 election, while Kaine was doing better among women and younger voters, according to the preliminary exit poll results.
Both Allen and Kaine have a long political history in the state and in the national spotlight.
Kaine served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the Democrats' major losses in the 2010 midterms, a hyper-partisan credential and a potential liability in a conservative-leaning, but moderate state like Virginia.
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And Allen was rumored to be a presidential contender in the 2008 presidential election elections until he referred to an Indian-American volunteer for an opponent's campaign with the racial slur "macaca" and later apologized.
The contest was also viewed to be closely hinged to the presidential race. Both men appeared with Mitt Romney and President Obama on the campaign trail this weekend, inextricably tying their campaigns to the respective party leaders.
Deficit reduction and tax policy dominated a debate between the two candidates as they did in most other national contests. But in Virginia, where the defense department is a major employer, potential defense cuts also became a hot-button issue.