Supporters of Democrat Ralph Northam erupt in cheers as it is announced Tuesday that he won the Virginia governorship over Republican Ed Gillespie. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Democrat Ralph Northam beat back a challenge from Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor Tuesday.

The election had been predicted to be close. But it ended with Northam, a doctor and Army veteran, winning 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Gillespie, a former head of the Republican National Committee.

“As long as I’m governor, I will work hard to make sure we’re inclusive,” Northam said.

Democrats also scored victories in the race for New Jersey governor and in New York City and Boston, where mayors easily won reelection.

The results marked Republicans’ most significant day of defeat in the Trump presidency. Trump immediately tried to distance himself from the losses.

“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” Trump tweeted Tuesday night.

But Gillespie did, in several ways, embrace Trump’s positions. Gillespie warned of the dangers of gangs, vowed to protect Confederate monuments and condemned national anthem protests by pro football players.

Liberal activists cheered their successes as evidence of the anti-Trump energy they have long insisted was real despite poor results in special elections in the conservative states of Montana, Georgia and South Carolina.

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy trounced Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, who served under Governor Chris Christie, who is also a Republican. Christie served two terms in a row and was not eligible to run for a third term.

Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is considering a presidential bid in 2020, said his party's gubernatorial victories in that state and Virginia were "the very first statewide rebuttal of the Trump administration."

— From news services

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