Democrat Terry McAuliffe was elected governor of Virginia yesterday with vote margins in Democratic-trending suburbs of Washington, D.C.,big enough to overcome deficits in less-populous rural areas that have shifted Republican.
McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, won in a manner not unlike that of President Barack Obama’s wins in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, though the architecture of Democratic wins in Virginia statewide elections has evolved over the past generation. Democrats generally are winning more votes in Northern Virginia and fewer in big swaths of Western and Southwestern Virginia.
In Fairfax County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction and the political base of both McAuliffe and Republican contender Ken Cuccinelli, McAuliffe won 58.3 percent of the vote, with a margin of 66,507 votes that exceeded his current statewide margin of 54,571 votes. Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, had 36.3 percent in Fairfax County, less than Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008 and even less than 2005 Republican gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore, a Southwestern Virginia resident.
In Prince William County, located south and west of Fairfax County, McAuliffe led by 51.9 percent to 43.7 percent and with a margin of 7,999 votes.
McAuliffe did better in Northern Virginia and much worse in Southwestern Virginia than Democrat Mark Warner when he was elected governor in 2001 by 52.2 to 47.0 percent. Warner is now a senator.
McAuliffe got a smaller share of the vote than Warner in 112 of 133 Virginia localities and ran behind Warner by more than 10 percentage points in 72 of them, according to unofficial returns. Many of these areas are lesser-populated jurisdictions in Southwestern Virginia, where there’s antipathy toward the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policies and Democratic positions on some cultural issues.
Cuccinelli led by 68 to 30 percent in Buchanan County, on the West Virginia and Kentucky borders. Warner, who courted Southwestern Virginia votes in his campaign for governor, won Buchanan by 66 to 34 percent in 2001. (David Wasserman, a political analyst with the Cook Political Report, wrote on Twitter that McAuliffe won just three precincts west of Radford, Virginia.)
McAuliffe overcame these deficits with comfortable wins in big population centers like Fairfax and Prince William, where he got a bigger share of the vote than Warner a dozen years ago. McAuliffe also ran ahead of Warner’s 2001 showing in some college towns like Charlottesville (University of Virginia), Williamsburg (The College of William & Mary) and Harrisonburg (James Madison University), and in black-majority Richmond and Petersburg.
In Henrico County near Richmond, Cuccinelli got just 38.2 percent of the vote compared with 47.9 percent for Republican Mark Earley in 2001. Alexandria and Arlington, strongly Democratic a dozen years ago, were even more overwhelmingly so in yesterday’s balloting.