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Primary post-game: Democrats tap Northam for governor; Gillespie ekes out a win over Stewart

The pundits got it wrong again.

Heading into Tuesday's Virginia primaries, regional and statewide story lines focused predominantly on the Democratic battle between establishment favorite Ralph Northam, the current lieutenant governor, and former Congressman Tom Perriello, a progressive riser emboldened by the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren movement. The race, once thought to be comfortably in the grips of Northam, had tightened up in recent months, according to the pollsters.

On the GOP side, Ed Gillespie was expected to cruise to the nomination. A former Republican National Committee chairman who nearly ousted Sen. Mark Warner in a stunning 2014 showing, Gillespie held substantial advantages in cash and party organization.

Within a couple hours of the polls closing Tuesday, the widely accepted prognostications were torpedoed.

Northam was declared the winner less than two hours after the polls closed, and he ended up securing the nomination by 10 percent of the vote over Perriello.

Gillespie, meanwhile, was sweating it out nearly until midnight, holding a less than 1-percent advantage as more than 90 percent of the commonwealth's precincts reported results.

In the end, he won by slightly more than 1 percent.

"[Gillespie will] take it, of course, but it's not much of a victory," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato in a tweet. "Very disappointing."

Gillespie's narrow margin of victory was especially striking in Loudoun, what's typically thought of a moderate terrain. Gillespie defeated Stewart by a mere 195 votes out of more than 11,500 cast in the Republican primary.

“A win is a win, but it was a little too close for comfort,” said Loudoun Republican David Ramadan, a former state delegate and Gillespie supporter.

Ramadan said he never believed Gillespie was going to run away with the nomination, especially in a three-person primary and with fellow Republicans rumored to be punching Democratic ballots as opposed to Republicans.

Asked for why suspected the race was so close, Ramadan said the Stewart camp was “very successful at spreading misinformation” about Gillespie, specifically on the issue of life and abortion.

Ramadan also said Stewart, the more conservative of the GOP candidates, forced Gillespie to take on issues he typically wouldn't be campaigning on.

“What sane conservative candidate wants to be talking about Confederate statues here in 2017. It's not what people care about, not what Republicans are interested in,” said Ramadan.

Stewart said his supporters and Trump's voters won't back Gillespie until he can show that he's a "fighter" who supports them.

"I'm more than willing to sit down and talk with him and explain that to him," Stewart said.

Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University, said Gillespie may have to stake out more conservative positions than he's comfortable with in order to keep Trump voters energized to vote for him. At the same time, he can't afford to alienate more moderate voters.

"I haven't seen a Republican yet who has managed how to do it," Kidd told the Associated Press..

Democrats reacted with glee to Gillespie's scare and created a new website Wednesday -- TrumpGillespie2017.com - to try to link Gillespie with the president.

But Will Estrada, chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee, expressed glee of his own when looking at the “loyal opposition's” results.

“I think Northam is a somewhat boring candidate, and it seems like a strong percentage of both parties want bomb-throwers,” said Estrada.

Down the ballot, Republican establishment favorite Jill Vogel eked out a victory over fellow state Sen. Bryce Reeves in the lieutenant governor's nomination.

That race too was closer than expected, Estrada said.

The LCRC chairman said a key takeaway from the primaries is that his party is filled with array of different thoughts and focuses, from the economy to national security and immigration. Estrada said Stewart's hard-line stance on illegal immigration is something that brought conservative Trump voters to the poll.

In the lieutenant governor general election, Vogel will match-up with Democrat Justin Fairfax, who comfortably secured his party's nomination over two challengers.


By the numbers:

Democratic gubernatorial

Ralph Northam, Tom Perriello

Northam won 56-44 percent statewide. In Loudoun, the lieutenant govenor won 51.5-48.5.

Republican gubernatorial

Gillespie, Stewart and Wagner

Gillespie won statewide with 43.7 percent of vote to Stewart's 42.5. In Loudoun, Gillespie won by just 195 votes.

Democratic lieutenant govenor

Fairfax, Platt, Rossi

Fairfax won statewide with 49 percent of vote to Platt's 39 percent. In Loudoun, Fairfax lost to Platt by roughly 5 percent.

Republican lieutenant governor

Vogel, Reeves, Davis Jr.

Vogel won statewide with 43 percent to Reeves' 40. In Loudoun, Vogel claimed 64 percent of vote to Reeves' 23.


More than 20,000 Loudoun residents voted in the Democratic primary compared to more than 12,000 votes in the GOP contest.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related coverage:

-"Walbridge wins Democratic primary in 33rd House District"


Winding down, don’t be a Donkey, work for a living. The so called ‘clown’ is prepared but you have every liberal and rino fighting him every step of the way. I don’t know about you but I certainly would love to see a tax system over haul and more money in my pocket. If you don’t you lack any sense. If you feel you need to pay more taxes to fund our already bloated government then you can pay my share too.
Obamacare is a disaster whether you admit it or not and our military have people in charge of it that know what they are doing and is no longer being treated like a social experiment.
Also, ask the recently deported MS 13 gang members if Trump means what he says. Like you, they hate Trump. They can even hate him more now that they are south of the border.

Lawman, I sorta sympathize with you…the race will be kinda boring but having just lived through a circus of an election that ended with an unprepared clown in the White House, I’m ready to focus on what will these fellows actually do after the votes are counted, not what passions they stir up during the campaign.

Mushy Republican Career Politician Centralist against and Mushy Democrat who has voted for Bush twice and wanted to be a Republican at one time.  Snooze fest where no matter who wins Dominion will win and nothing much will change.  Tom v. Corey would have been a barn burner, now it will just be boring.  Good ole Commonwealth

98Loudouner, Hillary is the one with the excuse du jour and won’t go away.  But since Northam can diagnose personality disorders without even meeting the person, it would be interesting to hear his opinion.  I guesss his expertise with three year olds would be helpful.

The people have decided they want adults running things rather than the dilettantes (the real swamp, full of manure) currently in control in Washington.

Duncan - your analysis is incorrect, 20,000 Democrats voted and 11,000 for the GOP in Loudoun, I would imagine the same throughout VA, and somehow Democrats are voting on the GOP side, highly unlikely given the numbers….Northam will win in November easily….meanwhile GOP congressmen were shot today in Alexandria at a baseball practice, crazy world we live in…

Glad to see more moderate candidates will be running this year than a bunch of far right/left wack jobs.

Hopefully this is a sign we are getting back to some sort of normal vs. extremists being our representatives.

@Duncan - If “Lots of Democrats crossed over and voted for Stewart” (which I’m sure you’re just making up) and Democrats cast about 543,000 votes, which is a record turnout for guberntorial primary for EITHER party (which is an actual fact), there must be a whole lot of engaged Dems in Va.

@Evil Homer lol you sound nervously relieved! Reread the part about Gillespie barely winning, (especially here in Loudoun) and ask yourself if Gillespie will turn his back on us and our values on his path to the Govenership…God Bless The South!

Please, please please give up on the Hillary Clinton stuff. It is soooooo tiring. Hasn’t Fox News given you new talking points recently? Be a good soldier and learn what you’re supposed to repeat ad nauseum. Oh, that’s right FN is still blathering on about HRC. SAD!!

And the Confederacy takes yet another L.

Lots of Democrats crossed over and voted for Stewart (as they did for Trump in the primaries) hoping to disrupt the GOP. Didn’t work this time. We need to end open primaries.

Looks like Northam will get my vote…both establishment candidates win, not good for Virginians…in any event, swamp lobbyist Ed barely wins the republican primary, a good sign for Democrats to retain the Governorship…keep banging your head against the wall establishment GOP….

Guess Virginia isn’t going hard-core Leftist.  So now that Northam, a pediatrician not a psychiatrist ,  has diagnosed Trump’s mental state although he’s never met him, do you suppose he could do the same for Hillary Clinton and her denial and endless excuses?

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