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Virginia gubernatorial election draws high turnout, gives Dems big boost

(WHSV)
Published: Nov. 8, 2017 at 6:15 PM EST
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Democrats saw a resurgence on Tuesday night with big wins in Virginia and New Jersey, with the GOP losing both gubernatorial races by a wide margin, in comparison to Virginia's typical statewide races.

As the results poured in for races in Virginia, one thing became clear — voters were motivated to come out.

Indeed, despite the rainy weather throughout much of the state, 47.6 percent of those eligible to vote showed up at the polls, according to the

. This is the highest turnout in a gubernatorial race

.

The Ed Gillespie campaign ran several negative advertisements about Ralph Northam in the weeks leading up to the election, even implying the now governor-elect supported allowing gun rights for pedophiles.

Dr. Bob Roberts, a political expert at James Madison University, said the approach backfired.

"They used a strategy of running very, very negative ads, many of them entirely false. They were lies, to mobilize their base, to get the Trump people out. It worked. They came out. But it also mobilized the other side who are angry as hell that are angry as hell that you're running those ads," said Roberts.

However, it's worth noting that a lobbying group supporting Northam also ran a very negative advertisement that gained national attention, portraying a Republican voter driving a truck toward a group of non-white children.

"I think what this message was yesterday that Virginia sent not only to this country, but to this world, is that the divisiveness, the hatred, the bigotry, the politics that is tearing this country apart, that's not the United States of America that people love," Northam said Wednesday at a news conference at Virginia's Capitol.

The Democrats also managed to pick up several seats in the General Assembly, putting the control of the House of Delegates in question.

In the Valley, eyes were on the race between 26th district incumbent Tony Wilt and his Democratic challenger Brent Finnegan.

Wilt won the seat with heavy support from Rockingham County, but Finnegan won Harrisonburg, which also supported Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Considering the fact the district has historically voted conservatively, Dr. Roberts said this year's contest may catch the attention of the Democratic party for future races.

"[Harrisonburg] used to be a Republican city. Now it's like Charlottesville," said Roberts. "This will be one of the most contested seats in the state in 2019. There really aren't a lot left that the Democrats can pick up."

Roberts said if the Democratic party was willing to invest in the 26th district race, it is plausible a challenger from the party could defeat a Republican in 2019.