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What To Look For From Virginia's Gubernatorial Election


It's Election Day. And today in Virginia, in the highest profile race of the night, the Associated Press projects Democrat Ralph Northam as the winner. There's also a smattering of mayoral elections, and voters are considering ballot measures elsewhere around the country. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been covering the Virginia gubernatorial race, and she joins us from Richmond, where Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, the former Republican national chairman, is holding his Election Night event. And, Sarah, tell us about the results that we're seeing and what propelled Northam's win.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, as you say, the Associated Press has just minutes ago called the race for the Democratic candidate. Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will become the governor of Virginia. I'm in Richmond with the Ed Gillespie campaign, the Republican campaign. And, you know, the party's just getting started. People are starting to gather here. And these results have just come in.

I noticed a few minutes ago on the big screen here they were showing news coverage. And around the time that the Associated Press called the race for Gillespie's rival, Ralph Northam, that was shut off. And now there's just a Gillespie for governor banner. But, you know, the mood is pretty much the same here. People are just talking and mingling. But I think pretty soon, we're going to have reaction to the fact that that this race appears to be over.


MCCAMMON: And, you know, Robert, this was supposed to be a good year for Democrats because of the fact that Virginia has been increasingly turning blue. The state went to Hillary Clinton last year. It was the only state in the South that Clinton won. And the demographics of the state have increasingly been becoming Democratic. So there was a lot of optimism on Democrats' side. But at the same time, Republicans hoped they could maybe sort of capture some of the Trump energy - and the fact that this is an off year, which tends to be better for Republicans.

SIEGEL: Yeah. Northam had been the favorite early in this race. Democrats have been doing very well in statewide races in Virginia. The Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature. We have no idea yet whether that'll remain the case after tonight. Northam was elected lieutenant governor four years ago. And I guess his campaign must have been counting on strong support from northern Virginia, from the Washington suburbs, where Democrats do very well.

MCCAMMON: That's right. And, you know, add to that the fact that back in the primary in June, nearly 200,000 more Democrats than Republicans turned out to vote, a possible sign of, you know, some of the concern on the Democratic side about President Trump. And we were hearing tonight throughout the evening from the Northam campaign that they'd been out knocking doors today and that they were really excited about the results in northern Virginia.

You know, Virginia is an interesting state. Southwest Virginia's very rural and white. Northern Virginia - increasingly diverse near the D.C. area, a good place for Democrats. Down in the Hampton Roads-Virginia Beach-Norfolk area, there's - there are a lot of African-American voters - also a lot of white voters, so it's sort of more mixed there. But those major cities are places that Democrats have really been focusing on - and Republicans, too. You know, northern Virginia is where a lot of the battles are. But Democrats also had their challenges in this campaign. It's been a - kind of a nasty campaign on both sides. And there were concerns that that might suppress voter turnout.

SIEGEL: Again, the big news that Democrat Ralph Northam appears to have won the gubernatorial race in Virginia. The Associated Press projects him as the winner. But it's not the only race in the country. There's also a governorship up in New Jersey today.

MCCAMMON: Right. And we're hearing that the race has just been called for the Democrat in New Jersey - the Democratic candidate for governor. You know, Republican Governor Chris Christie is the least popular governor in the nation right now. So that, you know, gives Democrats - gave Democrats an advantage. And they've appeared to have capitalized on that. But, you know, here in Virginia, there's a lot more to watch, a lot of down-ticket races. Democrats are hoping to flip at least some of those seats in the state legislature. We'll see how that goes as the evening goes on.

SIEGEL: Well, that's NPR's Sarah McCammon in Richmond, reporting on the gubernatorial race in Virginia. Again, the projected winner there, according to the Associated Press - Democrat Ralph Northam. Sarah, thanks.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.