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South: Virginia Senate Bright Spot for Democrats

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Former Gov. Tim Kaine won the close Virginia Senate contest, giving Democrats at least one victory to celebrate in the South.

Democrats had little to cheer about in the South, with one notable exception: Virginia, where they won a marquee Senate race that was the costliest in the nation and delivered a swing state victory for President Barack Obama.

Their other potential bright spot was Florida, which was leaning toward Obama at press time. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) easily won re-election in the Sunshine State, and Democrat Patrick Murphy appeared poised to claim an upset victory over GOP Rep. Allen West in Florida’s 18th district.

But elsewhere, in southern strongholds from Arkansas to Mississippi, from Kentucky to Tennessee, Republicans largely started out strong and stayed ahead, thanks in part to redrawn Congressional maps that favored the GOP.

In North Carolina, where Obama failed to replicate his Tar Heel State win of four years ago, Republicans picked up at least three House seats. Former U.S. Attorney George Holding (R) won the open seat in the 13th district. In the redrawn 11th district, businessman Mark Meadows (R) beat Hayden Rogers (D), the former chief of staff to Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, who had held the seat previously. And Republicans Richard Hudson and Robert Pittenger won in the 8th and 9th districts, respectively.

Democrats did appear on the verge of  winning the tossup 7th district race, with Blue Dog Rep. Mike McIntyre narrowly leading Republican state Sen. David Rouzer at press time. But Republican Pat McCrory’s successful gubernatorial bid added to North Carolina’s otherwise solid GOP wins.

Another Blue Dog Democrat who scored victory was Georgia Rep. John Barrow, who beat back a challenge from GOP state Rep. Lee Anderson despite new district lines drawn to his disadvantage. Rep. Ben Chandler, a Kentucky Blue Dog, was not so lucky. Attorney Andy Barr (R) ousted Chandler after linking him to Obama and to what Republicans dubbed Democrats’ “war on coal.”

Elsewhere in Kentucky, Republican Thomas Massie, a former Lewis County judge-executive associated with the tea party, won the open 4th district seat. That leaves Republicans in control of five of Kentucky’s six House seats.

The Louisiana Congressional delegation will also be GOP dominated, with Republicans in charge of at least four and probably five of the state’s six seats. The big question mark remains the 4th district Member-vs.-Member contest between Republicans Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry. The two are headed for a Dec. 8 runoff after unofficial returns showed Boustany won 45 percent of the vote, while Landry drew 30 percent and Democrat Ron Richard netted 22 percent.

Republicans retain six of seven House seats in Alabama, now that Rep. Spencer Bachus has won re-election, as expected. And the GOP picked up one seat in Arkansas, with Republican Tom Cotton’s 4th district win, handing Republicans control of the entire four-Member delegation. In Mississippi, 1st district Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s win also makes for a largely GOP delegation, with three of four seats in Republican hands.

Republicans also scored easy Senate wins in Mississippi, where Sen. Roger Wicker coasted to victory, and in Tennessee, where Sen. Bob Corker also won as expected. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R) also handily won re-election in Tennessee’s 3rd district.

Democrats’ big consolation prize was Tim Kaine’s Virginia Senate victory over Republican George Allen. In the high-dollar contest between the two former governors, Kaine was hammered with more than $24 million in spending by conservative super PACs and advocacy groups, about twice what nonparty outside organizations spent to help him, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

“Our victory tonight proves that it’s the number of people who stand with you, not the number of zeroes behind the check, that decide elections in the United States of America,” Kaine said in his victory speech. Kaine beat Allen, who also served in the Senate, with 52.4 percent of the vote. Virginia also delivered 13 electoral votes to Obama. The state’s closely watched 2nd district race, however, broke Republican, with Rep. Scott Rigell winning re-election.

Nelson held on to his Florida Senate seat with 55.1 percent of the vote. Florida was also leaning toward Obama at press time, though the race remained too close to call.

Democrats look likely to win the state’s hard-fought 18th district contest between West and Murphy, who at press time was leading by about 2,500 votes.

Also in Florida, former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) will return to the House after winning the newly created 9th district. Another Democrat, former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel won in the 22nd district, and Democrat Joe Garcia beat Rep. David Rivera (R) in the 26th district.

Republican Ted Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian, won Florida’s open 3rd district seat; Republican Ron DeSantis, a retired Navy officer, won the open 6th district seat, and Republican Trey Radel won the open 19th district seat. GOP Reps. Steve Southerland, Daniel Webster and Vern Buchanan were among the Sunshine State Republicans who won re-election.

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