RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Early unofficial results show Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor on Tuesday.
Virginia’s hard-fought race was closely watched as a swing-state test of President Donald Trump’s popularity. Northam, a pediatric neurologist and the state’s lieutenant governor, repeatedly tried to tie Gillespie to the president during months of divisive campaigning overshadowed by racial overtones and attack ads.
Northam’s victory was in large part due to a surge in anti-Trump energy since the president took office. Democrats said they had record levels of enthusiasm heading into the race.
Gillespie kept Trump at a distance throughout the campaign but tried to rally the president’s supporters with hard-edge ads focused on illegal immigration and preserving Confederate statues.
Meanwhile in New Jersey, front-running Democrat Phil Murphy topped Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (gwah-DAH’-noh) on Tuesday to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Murphy had an easier pathway in New Jersey, where Guadagno contended with Trump’s and Christie’s unpopularity.
Democrats were eager to show they could harness anti-Trump energy into success at the polls, while Republicans hoped to prove they could put together a winning blueprint in blue-leaning states.