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Election 2015: Republicans Maintain Narrow Control of Senate

Despite major efforts by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and outside groups, such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, no party-shifting happened in yesterday’s election. Republicans still maintain control of the House and narrow control of the Senate. This means the ongoing Medicaid expansion fight will likely die in the upcoming General Assembly session.

In the House of Delegates, a small number of seats flipped to opposing parties.  But unofficial returns suggest that Republicans will hold 66 seats, while Democrats will have 34—for a net loss of one seat for the GOP.

Here's a closer look at some of the more contested races around the Commonwealth:

10th District Senate – Chesterfield County, Richmond City, Powhatan County

D. Gecker (D)              47.09%               26,171

G. Sturtevant (R)       49.78%               27,665

C. Loser (L)                  0.95%                 527

M. Durfee (I)               2.04%                 1,136        

The 10th District’s Senate Race proved to be a nail biter last night. Democrat Dan Gecker held a steady lead against Republican Glen Sturtevant most of the night – until Powhatan County’s precincts were tallied. The race was close – and Gecker’s campaign refused to concede until the final numbers rolled in.

Dan Gecker greets supporters and volunteers, saying he won't concede the hotly-contested 10th district Senate seat.

While waiting, Gecker told the crowd “You know what people in this District are hungry for? They’re hungry to have their healthcare expanded. They’re hungry for a living wage. They’re hungry for fair education for their children. They’re hungry for jobs and job training.”

Sturtevant won by 1,494 votes. He attributed his win to hard work, knocking on thousands of doors, and talking about issues that Virginians care about:

“This is about getting our economy growing again from the ground up and expanding the pie -- and creating more opportunity for the 10th district and for the Commonwealth. Focusing on Education reform, making sure that our tax dollars are being spent in the classrooms -- that we’re paying teachers better. And that we’re reforming the SOL system so that every child has access to a phenomenal education.”

Glen Sturtevant will now replace Republican Senator John Watkins, who had served the 10th district since 1998 and announced plans to retire last year. This race was the most expensive in state history, with candidates raising over $4 million dollars.

29th District Senate – Prince William County, Manassas City, Manassas Park City

J. McPike (D)              53.91%               16,583

H. Parrish (R)             45.91%               14,122

Democrat Jeremy McPike kept a key northern Virginia Senate seat in his party's hands, defeating Republican Hal Parrish.

Hal Parrish, Jeremy McPike

The race attracted more than $1 million in campaign spending, as Republicans nominated Parrish, a popular mayor of Manassas to try to wrest the seat from Democrats. The Parrish family has held elected office in Manassas and Prince William County for decades.

The seat had previously been held by 89-year-old Democrat Charles Colgan, the longest serving state senator in Virginia history, who opted not to run for re-election.

The district profile tilts strongly toward Democrats, and McPike ran a campaign centered on education and transportation issues.

21st District Senate – Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Montgomery County, Giles County

J. Edwards (D)            50.9%                 20,728

N. Dye (R)                    42.6%                 17,350

D. Caldwell (I)             6.4%                   2,606

Though it was an off-off-off election year, interest in Virginia’s races brought in some major money – including Nancy Dye’s. The former surgeon turned Republican State Senate candidate raised nearly $250,000 dollars more than her challenger, Incumbent Democrat John Edwards. 

John Edwards, Nancy Dye, Don Caldwell

With that outside support and the presence of Independent Don Caldwell, Roanoke’s longest serving Commonwealths attorney and a former Democrat, many believed the race would veer Right – but Edwards won with 50% of the vote. He spoke with CBS affiliate WDBJ in downtown Roanoke while the final votes were tallied.

“I think the people in this District believe that the Government is here to lift people up -- to improve the lives of people, to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens. And these are the things I’ve been working on since I’ve been in the Senate. Public and higher education, transportation, healthcare – these are things that improve people’s lives.”

Across town, Dye conceded from the Holiday Inn near Tanglewood Mall.

“Let’s go on with grace, and let’s continue to fight for the things that we believe in. And thank you all, so much.”

Virginia’s 20th Senate District – Henry, Halifax, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Carroll, and Franklin Counties; Martinsville, Galax, and Danville Cities

K. Adkins (D)              42.05%               16,446

W. Stanley (R)            57.78%               22,598

Kim Adkins, Bill Stanley

Senator Bill Stanley has served the 20th District since 2011. Kim Adkins is the former mayor of Martinsville – while she won in Martinsville and Danville, she failed to secure enough support in the rest of the district, which usually skews Republican.

Both Stanley and Adkins have made headlines in the weeks leading up to the election.

Stanley reported to police a Facebook comment from Andy Parker that he interpreted as a threat. Parker is a gun control advocate and the father of Alison Parker, the WDBJ reporter shot on live TV. Stanley, an outspoken Second Amendment supporter, responded to the post by obtaining concealed carry permits for both himself and his wife.

Adkins’s office was recently vandalized with a target symbol next to the phrase, “Back Off B**** .” The Martinsville Police Department are investigating.

Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney, City Council, And Albemarle County

Sandy Hausman has the details.

Republicans saw an important win in Albemarle County, where Robert Tracci defeated incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford with 51% of the vote.  Democrats had attacked Tracci - a former federal prosecutor with no experience in state courts - but he pledged to learn the ropes quickly.

“And I hope to deliver on all the things I ran on, which is trying to restore a sense of confidence in the fair administration of justice in the office, attaching greater priority to protecting children and the elderly, expanding the DNA data base and emphasizing prevention and diversion.”  

Credit Robert Tracci

Tracci had earlier said he would not consider low-level, non-violent drug offenses a priority.

In other races, Democrats in Charlottesville and Albemarle County had reason to celebrate. 

After years of partisan battles on the Albemarle County Board, Democrats are now in complete control with Norman Dill and Rick Randolph winning contested seats.  Kathy Galvin, who was re-elected to the Charlottesville City Council, says the voters have cleared the way for regional cooperation and progress on some very big issues.

“Transportation, economic development, education.  To be in partnership as opposed to be antagonistic toward each other only makes sense, and the public has told us that.  Enough of this old ax to grind.  Work together.”  

Democrat Mike Signer also won a seat on council, pledging to do something about the skeleton of a nine-story hotel that stands on Charlottesville’s downtown mall.  Construction stopped in 2009, and the city has been unable to get the current owner - Dewberry Capital of Atlanta - to resume work on the property.

“We need to be working with experts in this community who know how to deal with properties like this in case it needs to be demolished.  And we need to put the city and our staff in the driver’s seat.  We have kind of let this developer run the show, and that’s not appropriate.”

The top vote getter for city council was Wes Bellamy who lost his last bid for the office by five votes.  He’ll become the first African-American to serve in that post since 2011.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
Kelsea Pieters has worked as a reporter and producer for WVTF since March 2014. She regularly contributes feature and news stories and produces Back to the Blue Ridge with Kinney Rorrer. Kelsea graduated from Roanoke College in 2013 with a BA in Communication.
Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.
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