Elections A Mixed Bag for LGBT Virginians
LGBT Virginians can breathe a little easier following Tuesday’s statewide and local elections, but the community still faces daunting challenges in Richmond. Democrat Terry McAuliffe may have narrowly defeated anti-gay Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in the race for governor, but that victory failed to provide enough momentum to help all the down-ticket Democratic LGBT allies.
In the governor’s race, McAuliffe defeated Cuccinelli 48 percent to 45 percent, with 7 percent of voters selecting Libertarian Party nominee Robert Sarvis. According to exit polling from Edison Media Research, McAuliffe won female voters by 9 points and lost male voters by 3 points. He won 90 percent of African-American voters, but only 36 percent of white votes.
Regionally, McAuliffe had sizeable wins in the D.C. suburbs and the Tidewater region, and a narrow win in the Richmond area, while Cuccinelli won big in the western part of the state and eked out a narrow victory among people in the Northern Virginia exurbs.
E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, was defeated by state Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Mathews, Northampton and Accomack counties) by a full 10 points, 55 to 45 percent.
The defeats of Cuccinelli, who has made opposition to LGBT rights a cornerstone of his political career beginning with his tenure in the Virginia Senate and continuing as the state’s attorney general, and Jackson, known for his fiery anti-gay rhetoric, were certainly celebrated by the LGBT community and its allies. But McAuliffe’s win fell short of carrying all the down-ticket Democrats to victory.
In the state attorney general’s race, as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg, Rockingham, Rappahannock, Page, Warren, Shenandoah counties), a longtime opponent of LGBT rights, led state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun, Fairfax counties) by 465 votes out of almost 2.2 million votes cast, according to the State Board of Elections.
Throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, Herring and Obenshain exchanged leads as more ballots from remaining precincts filtered in. There were also some recording errors from the State Board of Elections, which erroneously shortchanged Herring by 610 votes at one precinct in Loudoun County, and shortchanged Obenshain by 200 votes at one precinct in Buchanan County. The results of the attorney general’s race are within three-hundredths of a percentage point and are likely to be subject to an automatic recount.
Herring, a longtime legislative ally to the LGBT community, campaigned with an ’’Equality Agenda’’ in which he promised to prohibit discrimination in state and local employment, pursue anti-bullying policies and protections for LGBT teens, find legal remedies that would allow LGBT people to access their partner’s health and life insurance benefits, and promote second-parent adoption for gay and lesbian couples. As a supporter of marriage equality, a Herring win would be crucial to determining whether Virginia would appeal any court decision that might find Virginia’s ban on recognizing same-sex relationships unconstitutional, as two separate cases challenge that ban work their way through the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia.
Herring’s campaign released a statement Wednesday expressing confidence in an eventual victory.
’’Since polls closed, we’ve seen several lead changes and based on our projections, we are going to win,’’ Herring’s campaign manager Kevin O’Holleran said in the statement. ’’When all of the votes cast are counted, including absentee votes and thousands of provisional ballots, we’re confident Mark Herring will be the next Attorney General of Virginia. We have a responsibility to make sure every voter is protected and every vote counts.’’
In Manassas Park and Prince William County, Democrat Atif Qarni lost to Republican incumbent Del. Bob Marshall - arguably the House’s most anti-LGBT delegate - by 498 votes. That win, notably, was Marshall’s smallest margin of victory since first elected in 1991.