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Virginia Democrats block GOP bid to take full control of state government

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Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin addresses the Economic Club of Washington’s luncheon event at the Marriott Marquis on September 26, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia voters have rejected Republican efforts to take full control of the state’s government, keeping Democrats in power in the Legislature as a counterweight to GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin and conservative policy proposals that include a 15-week abortion ban.

Democrats kept their majority in the state Senate and flipped the state House, The Associated Press projected.

Youngkin spent much of the summer and fall campaigning on behalf of Republican candidates across Virginia, and his PAC, Spirit of Virginia, poured millions of dollars into key races. The group also launched an early-voting program that led to increased early turnout among Virginia Republicans, according to data released by the State Board of Elections.

The result means Democrats will still be able to block Youngkin’s legislative priorities in the General Assembly. He and his allies had high hopes of pushing legislation on the economy, education and public safety in the next two years until Youngkin’s term is up in 2025.

But abortion was also at the center of Republicans’ campaigns, and the party has suffered on the issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022.

Youngkin has long pushed for a 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest and risk to the life of the woman. He argued that 15 weeks was a “consensus” that Virginians could get behind, and candidates in key battleground districts campaigned hard on the plan.

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But their Democratic opponents also spent significant money bashing the proposal. Now, Republicans are still searching for a winning message on abortion in the post-Roe era.

With the Democratic win, any legislation to limit abortions is all but guaranteed to fail in the General Assembly next year.

Virginia’s races also attracted support from beyond state lines. Billionaires Thomas Peterffy and Jeff Yass each donated several million dollars to Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia. Democrats, in the final days of the campaign, called on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., to help push them over the finish line by raising money and campaigning alongside candidates. A group affiliated with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker also sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Democrats in the closing days of the race.

Tuesday’s win for Democrats may complicate any potential plans Youngkin may have had to seek higher office. He cannot run for re-election in 2025, and in recent months he has danced around the question of a potential 2024 run for president, telling NBC News he has been “so focused” on Virginia and the legislative races.

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