Balance of Power in Virginia State Senate Still Unclear

Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:33pm

Updated: 12:41 a.m.

The Virginia state Senate majority was hanging by a thread early today, as votes were still trickling in from a few districts.

Republicans needed to net just two seats to win control of the chamber. The two seats would bring both parties to 20 seats each, with the Republican lieutenant governor breaking the tie in the GOP’s favor.

With Democrats losing one and holding on in three other close races, the majority was hinging on the Fredericksburg-area 17th district. A recount could be necessary there, as Bryce Reeves (R) led by just 86 votes over state Sen. Edward Houck (D) with all precincts reporting. Although Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, declared Reeves the winner in a statement, an unknown number of provisional ballots will be counted today, the Washington Post reported.

The GOP already holds the governorship and easily held its majority in the state House. Insiders from both parties said a Republican-controlled state Senate would immediately restart a stalemated Congressional redistricting process and likely solidify the delegation’s current 8-3 GOP majority for the next 10 years.

No matter who wins the state Senate majority, the state will be a battleground at the presidential and U.S. Senate levels in 2012, with President Barack Obama hoping to win the state for a second time and former Govs. Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) engaging in a battle of the titans for the open Senate seat.

Kaine and Allen crisscrossed the state for the past several months on behalf of state and local candidates, a process that allowed them to support their state parties and gave them face time with voters more than a year before their own election. They spent election night at official party events in Fairfax.

Both campaigns saw the process as beneficial for next year, and they’ll likely begin poring over the returns for clues about the 2012 landscape