One of the two races that will determine whether the Virginia state Senate is controlled by Democrats or Republicans ended Tuesday in a virtual tie.
In the 6th District [Virginia Beach-Norfolk] relinquished by Democratic Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, Democratic state Delegate Lynwood Lewis, Jr. held a wafer-thin lead of 22 votes out of more than 20,000 cast against Republican businessman Wayne Coleman.
With provisional ballots waiting to be counted and a recount almost certain, Lewis's 0.1 percent margin is by no means the final outcome. Neither is the question of which party will control the state Senate as Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe prepares to take office later this month. The chamber currently has 20 Republicans and 18 Democrats with two vacancies.
"A Democratic win in the special election will give Virginia Republicans genuine cause for concern," Mark Kennedy, former Republican congressman from Minnesota and head of the political management department at George Washington University, told Newsmax. "If Lewis holds on to his lead and wins, there will be a new urgency for Republican candidates with a broader appeal.
"But if Coleman wins and thus denies Democrats any chance of controlling the Virginia Senate, Republicans will not only have the opportunity to thwart Terry McAuliffe's agenda but to rebut the claim that Virginia is turning blue."
Underscoring Kennedy's assessment was the $1.1 million spent by Lewis and Coleman. Coleman received five donations totaling $228,016 from the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, $25,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, and $10,000 from the campaign fund of defeated Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli.
Lewis was backed by the Virginia Education Association ($8,300), the Virginia League of Conservation Voters ($5,000), and Colorado gay rights activist Tim Gill ($5,000). In addition, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund backed Lewis with $40,528 of in-kind contributions.
Republicans have a majority in the state House of Delegates, but control of the state Senate will be determined after the two vacancies are filled, seats formerly held by Northam and Democratic Attorney General-elect Mark Herring.
Should Lewis emerge triumphant in the Sixth District and Democrat Jennifer Wexton win the 33rd District (Loudon County) special election January 21, then the Senate will be tied with 20 seats for each major party. Since the lieutenant governor is the presiding officer in the senate, Northam would cast the tie-breaking vote to give his fellow Democrats control.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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