Update Nov. 09, 2011, 3:01 pm: According to the Washington Post, Republicans have declared victory in the Virginia state Senate.
Officials still have to count provisional ballots in the race between Sen. Edward Houck and Republican challenger Bryce Reeves, but Sen. Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) told the Post he didn’t “hold out much hope.” If Reeves were to win, the Senate would be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) serving as a tie breaker. Saslaw told the Post if Reeves wins, GOP Senate leader Tom Norment will decide whether Republicans take control or if the two parties will share power.
Virginia Democrats will lose ground in the state Senate after tonight’s General Assembly election, but it looks as though they may hang on to their fragile majority.
Most Democratic incumbents thought to be on the brink of losing their seats – such as Sen. Charles Colgan, Sen. Toddy Puller, Sen. George Barker and Sen. Dave Marsden – cruised to victory on election night. Republicans, meanwhile, picked up just one seat from the Democrats – Sen. Roscoe Reynolds’ seat south of Roanoke.
There is still one race that is far too close to call, and it could determine the makeup of the Senate moving forward.
Currently, Sen. Edd Houck, a Democrat who represents a rural area northeast of Charlottesville, is losing to his Republican opponent, Bryce Reeves, by just 86 votes — a fraction of one percent. In elections where the margin is that thin, a recount is almost always performed.
If Reeves’ lead holds, the Senate will be divided evenly — 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. In that circumstance, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor would cast any tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Because the current Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, is a Republican, that would give the Commonwealth’s Republicans a de facto edge.
Given the closeness of the Houck race, and the closeness of the Virginia Senate as a whole, it’s likely we’ll be feeling reverberations from tonight’s election for weeks if not months to come.
Additional coverage from around the web:
Analysis: What a Republican win means for Va. – The Washington Post
Lessons from the 2011 elections – Politico
Complete list of results – Virginia Public Access Project