Gains, Including House Seats, Buoy Kaine's Agenda
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; 8:31 AM
Democrats wrested control of the Senate from the Republicans in yesterday's legislative elections, picking up the four seats they needed to give them a majority of at least 21 to 19 and end a decade of GOP dominance in the chamber.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) claimed victory in a celebration at Tysons Corner. The Republicans retained control of the House, but the Democrats also gained seats there. The party's surge will help the governor advance much of his agenda during his last two years in office, including investing more in education, health and the environment.
"It's an exciting time," Kaine said in interview. "It enables me to get even more done."
The Democratic gains offered further evidence of a closely divided electorate as both parties gear up for next year's presidential and U.S. Senate races. Although Democrats made advances in rapidly changing, diversifying Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the GOP held on to several Senate seats in more rural parts of the state.
In Fairfax County, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) easily beat Republican Gary H. Baise of Falls Church. Democrats also appeared well positioned to retain their majority on the Board of Supervisors.
In a race that centered on Prince William County's effort to curb illegal immigration, GOP board chairman Corey A. Stewart, who led the immigration crackdown, won reelection over Democrat Sharon E. Pandak.
In Loudoun County, most of the Board of Supervisors candidates who ran on a slow-growth platform won, including five Democrats. Chairman Scott K. York (I) was reelected.
In Fairfax, Democrats unseated Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and defeated J.K. "Jay" O'Brien. Democrats also won two hard-fought Senate contests in Hampton Roads.
O'Brien's Democratic opponent George L. Barker won by about 800 votes. Barker claimed victory but said O'Brien did not call him to concede.
One other seat was closely contested. With 100 percent of the votes counted, Sen. Ken T. Cuccinelli II (R) held a 91 vote lead over Democrat Janet S. Oleszek. Cuccinelli at 3:30 a.m. sent an e-mail appeal to Republican supporters for volunteers and donations to support him in a possible recount. As of this morning neither side had conceded defeat or claimed victory.
Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said the gains in the Senate will be significant for Northern Virginia residents "because virtually every senator up here becomes a committee chairman. That's huge."
Saslaw, who will probably be majority leader, also becomes chairman of commerce and labor, for instance. "There will be a heavy urban focus," he said in an interview, referring to the Senate under new leadership. But he also sought to strike a centrist note, saying: "The state Senate has always governed from the center. That's what we do."