HARRISONBURG — Area Republican legislators said Wednesday they were disheartened by the overall outcome of the election.
Democrats maintained their control over the executive branch, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeating Republican Ed Gillespie for the commonwealth’s top executive spot.
Democrat Justin Fairfax beat out Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring held onto his seat, defeating Republican John Adams.
Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, who celebrated his own re-election Tuesday evening, was surprised at the results.
“As far as the statewide races, obviously I’m disappointed,” Wilt said. “We had an excellent slate of candidates and they had a good, positive message for all Virginians, but it wasn’t to be.”
The Republican majority in the House of Delegates also will evaporate come January, with Democrats winning at least 15 seats Tuesday evening, according to unofficial results from the Virginia Department of Elections.
The Republicans had a 66-34 majority going into this year’s vote and all 100 House seats up for election. Four delegate races were so close after Tuesday’s unofficial results that they qualify for a recount. Democrats would need at least two more seats to gain a 51-seat majority.
Wilt said he did not expect that many seats to flip Tuesday.
“To see that much of a move, I think it took everybody by surprise, as it did me,” he said. “Right now, I’m still trying to get my thoughts around what that’s going to look like.”
Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, also was re-elected Tuesday evening and will serve his 12th term in office. He was also disappointed to hear some of his fellow Republicans did not fare well in their delegate races.
Landes attributed the massive Democratic sweep as both a reaction to President Donald Trump’s administration and out-of-state contributions. For example, NextGen Climate Action, a San Francisco-based environmental political action committee, gave nearly $1.4 million to Democratic candidates, according to VPAP.
“Why should somebody in California be determining who an elected official in Northern Virginia or statewide is?” Landes said. “I don’t try to go into California and try to influence their elections. Why should they have somebody coming from outside trying to influence our elections?”
State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said this was not the first time a party lost a significant number of seats.
“It is a phenomenon that occurs,” he said. “I just hate to see it occur here in Virginia. But Virginia is a state that has in recent years swung left and right, and I guess we better hold on for the ride.”
While the Republicans have a large majority in the House, at least for now, the GOP maintains just a two-seat edge in the 40-member Senate.
“They will have to do the hard work of holding their caucus together and getting things done with a narrow majority,” Obenshain said of Republican senators.
Regardless of how the final results come in, Wilt said, Republicans must move on.
“That’s what everybody will do, I hope, is pick up where we left off on Monday,” Wilt said, “and continue to move forward for the best of the state of Virginia. That’s my intent, anyhow.”