VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A three-judge panel overseeing a recount in a close race at Virginia State House upheld the Republican nominee’s victory on Friday, a decision that also reaffirms the GOP’s takeover of the chamber. and completes the party’s sweep of last month’s elections.
Republicans also claimed governor, lieutenant governor and statewide attorney general positions in the Nov. 2 ballot. The victories were a dramatic turnaround in a state where the GOP had not won a statewide race since 2009. Democrats still hold a 21-19 majority in the Senate — where the election will not have not take place until 2023 – sharing control of the Virginia state legislature.
Certified election results showed Republicans leading in 52 districts and Democrats leading in 48. The recount in the 85th district race gave incumbent Democrat Alex Askew 12 votes, but he was still trailing Republican challenger Karen Greenhalgh by 115 votes. There was one disputed ballot. The panel found that the voter’s intent was unclear, so the ballot was not counted for any of the candidates. The 85th District covers part of the city of Virginia Beach.
After Democrats called for recounts in two races with razor-thin margins, it left open the remote possibility of a 50-50 split.
Although the second recount, in the 91st district, is still set to take place next week, Democrats no longer have a chance of defeating the GOP majority. Askew is a freshman first elected in 2019, when Democrats flipped the House and Senate.
After the recount results were announced, Askew thanked his supporters, campaign staff and volunteers.
“While this is not the outcome we hoped for, I continue to be filled with optimism for the future of our Commonwealth and the City of Virginia Beach,” he said in a statement.
House Republicans — who won 52 districts, according to certified results — had said they were confident their candidates’ leads would hold.
“With only one recount pending, House Republicans are excited to start working for the people of Virginia. Now that the majority is official, we can move forward with a rapid transition to be ready to work on day one,” President-elect Todd Gilbert said in a statement after the results were announced.
Outgoing House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn praised Askew for her work in the House and congratulated Greenhalgh on her victory.
“While the recount results did not change the original outcome of the election, it was a necessary step to ensure confidence in our Democratic process. And a similar and necessary process to ensure that every vote is counted will take place next week in Home District 91,” Filler-Corn said in a statement.
Minnesota is the only other state where Democrats and Republicans share control of the legislative chambers. In Alaska, Republicans have a majority in both houses, but the State House is controlled by a coalition of Democrats, Independents and two Republicans. Nebraska has only one state legislative chamber.
Throughout Thursday and Friday, people crowded into a room on the second floor of an election building in Virginia Beach as ballots were fed into two scanning machines. Groups of people sat at tables and examined any ballots that the machines determined had written candidates, weren’t clearly marked, or had some other problem.
There were no discussions or arguments during the hearing as to who would be the winner of the race. Once the panel of judges decided that the disputed ballot – which had both bubbles filled in for the candidates but a slash in Greenhalgh’s name – was too fuzzy to count, they demanded a tally of votes from the Registrar’s office. Virginia Beach Circuit Court Chief Judge Leslie Lilley then quickly found that Greenhalgh would be the next delegate for the 85th District.
Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.
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