Democrats Capture Control of Virginia Senate

At top, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and her husband, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, turn out to vote at a Vienna church. Above, her challenger, J.C.
At top, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and her husband, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, turn out to vote at a Vienna church. Above, her challenger, J.C. "Chap" Petersen, greets voters outside a polling site. Petersen was leading Davis in early returns. (Photos By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

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 the Senate, Democrats won two hard-fought contests in Hampton Roads, unseating Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (Fairfax) and defeating J.K. "Jay" O'Brien (Fairfax).

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.

Democrats also had a chance to pick up another Senate seat in Fairfax. With only absentee ballots left to be counted, Sen. Ken T. Cuccinelli II (R) held a 69-vote lead over Democrat Janet S. Oleszek.

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."

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