Virginia incumbent Senator Mark Warner says he won a close re-election Tuesday night in the Old Dominion but may face a runoff if challenger Ed Gillespie wants one.
Warner declared victory after counts showed him with a victory margin of just over 12,000 votes. Gillespie hasn’t conceded and Virginia law allows losers to a recount if the winning percentage is less than one percent.
If he wants to request a recount, Gillespie must wait until Tuesday’s results are certified by the Virginia Board of Elections later this month.
Exit polls show voters who voted for Gillespie did not necessarily support him but were voting against unpopular incumbent President Barack Obama and any of Warner’s votes that supported programs of the President.
The race tightened in the closing days of the campaign, surprising some election watchers in Virginia, but the same thing happened in the governor’s race last year when Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s lead in the polls vanished as Obama’s job approval tanked.
Warner’s close margins this time were a big turnaround to his overwhelming victory against former Gov. Jim Gilmore for the Senate seat six years ago and his popularity as governor.
Virginia Democratic Strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders helped put together Warner’s successful governor campaign 13 years ago says Warner’s problems are a direct result of racism.
“It breaks my heart to say it, because these are my people, but racism was a huge factor in this,” Saunders told The Washington Post. “I think in many areas of rural Virginia, racism is still prevalent, and they dislike Obama more than they like Mark Warner.”