TYSONS CORNER, Va. (AP) — Terry McAuliffe wrested the governor’s office from Republicans on Nov. 5, capping an acrimonious lead.
McAuliffe received 47 percent to Cuccinelli’s 46 percent, with 97 precincts reporting. He immediately promised to reach across party lines.
“Over the next four years most Democrats and Republicans want to make Virginia a model of pragmatic leadership,” McAuliffe said. “This is only possible if Virginia is the model for bipartisan cooperation.”
McAuliffe, a Democrat, ran strong among unmarried women, voters who made abortion a top issue and those who called the suburbs of Washington, D.C., home, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, fared well among tea party backers, gun owners and among the state’s rural residents.
In winning, McAuliffe broke a stubborn streak in state history. During the past nine governor’s races, the party that controlled the White House at the time has always lost.
Turnout was low. Only 52 percent of voters said they strongly backed their candidate, while the rest had reservations or backed a candidate because they disliked the other options, according to exit polls.
Voters’ dissatisfaction couldn’t overshadow the fight on television. McAuliffe enjoyed a 10-to-1 advertising advantage during the final days.
“I think that every single person in Virginia is glad now that the TV ads are over,” McAuliffe said to laughter and applause.
In his emotional concession speech, Cuccinelli vowed he would not give up on his fight against Democrats’ national health care law.
“The battle goes on,” Cuccinelli said.
The campaign’s tilt turned many voters off.
“I really hated the negative campaigning,” said Ellen Tolton, a 52-year-old grant writer. “I didn’t want to vote for any of them.”
Richard Powell, a 60-year-old retired IT manager who lives in Norfolk, an independent said he cast his ballot for McAuliffe, although not because he’s particularly enthusiastic about him. He said he was more determined not to vote for Cuccinelli, who he said overreaches on a variety of medical issues.
“I’m not in favor of abortion — let’s put it that way — but I find that restricting abortion causes far more social harm than allowing abortion, so that was an issue for me,” he said.
McAuliffe, who once led the Democratic National Committee and is a confidant of former President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, said he would expand Medicaid to provide health coverage for 400,000 people under the federal health care law.
Cuccinelli tried to make the election into a referendum on the health care law. Cuccinelli, 45, went into Election Day trying to overcome a deficit in the polls, a crush of negative ads and a lingering wariness among fellow Republicans about his conservative views.
Sharon Ann Ross, 56, said her vote for McAuliffe in Manassas was in keeping with a gradual shift in her politics. She used to favor Republicans, but now she supports Democrats.
“I’m kind of embarrassed to be a Republican,” said Ross, a gun owner who favors conservatives on Second Amendment issues but said the economy drove her decision.
“Right now, I feel more comfortable voting through my wallet,” she said. “I’d like to better my life, and I think a Democratic ticket does more for average people like me.”