GOP looks for Virginia clean sweep following big wins in governor and lieutenant governor race

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Republicans on Wednesday looked to complete their stunning sweep in formerly blue Virginia , with the statehouse majority and attorney general races still too close to call.

Democrats held a 55-45 majority heading into Tuesday's election , but the GOP waged an aggressive campaign to flip 13 seats they considered vulnerable. In order to regain the majority, Republicans need to flip at least six.

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert claimed Wednesday morning that his party had “clearly won six seats previously held by Democrats,” but major media outlets had not called four of the six races Gilbert cited.

“On top of a clean sweep of the three statewide offices in Virginia, Republicans have retaken the House of Delegates in another sound rejection of Biden and Democrat’s failed agenda,” he said in a written statement. “The red wave is here, and things are only going to get worse for Joe Biden and the Democrats come November 2022.”

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The delegate contests have also been closely watched as a measure of voter satisfaction with a variety of Democratic reforms, including legalizing marijuana, loosening abortion restrictions, and expanding voter access.

The GOP had controlled the House since 2000, but Democrats flipped 15 Republican-held seats in 2017. Two years later, they took control of both chambers and erased Republican-held majorities.

The statewide attorney general contest is also still too close to call. Democrat Mark Herring is seeking a third term against Republican candidate Jason Miyares, a delegate from Virginia Beach. If Herring wins, he would be the first attorney general to win a third term in the state since World War II.

Miyares, the son of a Cuban immigrant, declared victory early Wednesday, despite the race not being called or Herring conceding defeat.

Voters handed Republican Glenn Youngkin a big win over Terry McAuliffe , effectively ending the decadelong Democratic trend of electoral gains in a state that was won by both former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden .

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The GOP victory was powered by a robust turnout in conservative rural counties coupled with strong messages focused on the economy and parents' rights in school curriculum. The statewide strategy will likely be a blueprint for Republicans across the country trying to flip the U.S. House and Senate during the 2022 midterm elections.

“There is nothing more perilous for either political party right now than a base that … isn't buying into the threat of what can happen if the other party comes into power,” Republican media consultant Nick Everhart told NBC News. “Today, clearly Democrats weren't buying the Youngkin-is-a-Trump-proxy scare tactic, and without a base believing the threat, the losses can and will quickly pile up.”

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McAuliffe tried repeatedly to paint Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the D.C.-based Carlyle Group investment firm, as “Donald Trump in khakis” — a comparison that fell flat among voters.

Heading into Tuesday's matchup, Virginia was the Democrats' to lose. No Republican had won statewide in more than a decade. Outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam, who is prohibited by state law from running for a second term, won by 9 percentage points in 2017.

Two years ago, Democrats won control of both houses of the state legislature and pushed through an expansion of early voting rules that political analysts claimed would help the party turn out its base. Instead, Youngkin defeated the Democratic stalwart who had served as governor from 2014 to 2018. Youngkin had 50.7% of the vote, compared with McAuliffe's 48.6%, with 95% of precincts reporting.

Youngkin had been trailing his opponent much of the race. The tides turned after a Sept. 29 gubernatorial debate in which McAuliffe said, “I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

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Youngkin capitalized on the comment and successfully tapped into the anger and frustration parents felt over mask mandates, transgender rights, and school curriculum.

Political analysts called McAuliffe's comments on education were the turning point in a race that was supposed to be an easy win for Democrats. Instead, anger over schools galvanized voters and helped the GOP claw back lost electoral ground.

Speaking to cheering supporters around 1 a.m. Wednesday, Youngkin thanked the crowd and vowed to “change the trajectory of this commonwealth.”

Republicans also scored a victory – and made history – in the lieutenant governor's race.

Winsome Sears, a conservative black Republican, became the first woman of color elected to the office in the commonwealth's 400-year legislative history. The Jamaica-born Marine veteran beat out Democrat Hala Ayala, a member of the state House of Delegates, by a two-point margin with 95% of precincts reporting.

“I am at a loss for words, for the first time in my life,” Sears told a cheering crowd. “I'm here because you put your trust in me.”

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She also spoke about the importance of moving forward and not letting racial stereotypes stoke fears.

“In case you haven't noticed, I am black, and I have been black all my life,” she said. “But that's not what this is about. What we are going to do is be about the business of the commonwealth.”

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