SPRINGFIELD, Va. (AP) — Republican Ed Gillespie on Friday conceded Virginia’s Senate race to Democratic incumbent Mark Warner.
“The votes just aren’t there,” Gillespie told his supporters, adding that he had called Warner earlier in the day to congratulate him.
It “would be wrong to put my fellow Virginians through a recount,” he added, “when in my head and my heart I know that a different outcome is not possible.”
The latest numbers from the State Board of Elections show Warner leading by more than 16,000 votes, with 49.1 percent of the vote, and Gillespie at 48.4 percent, out of more than 2 million ballots cast. Libertarian Robert Sarvis was third with 2.4 percent. Warner’s margin had increased slightly over the previous two days.
Virginia law allows a loser to seek a recount if the margin of defeat is less than a percentage point. But the state will pay for the recount only if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. Because Gillespie is down by 0.7 points, he would have been on the hook to pay for any recount.
Gillespie left the reception room with his wife, Cathy, without taking questions from reporters. On the way out, he shook hands with some of the more than 100 supporters, who applauded and cheered.
Warner issued a statement commending Gillespie on his campaign and saying, “Virginians sent an unmistakable message both to me and Congress as a whole: End the gridlock and get to work.” Warner promised to work with Republicans on reducing the budget deficit and other issues.
Warner, a former governor who is one of Virginia’s most popular politicians, had been expected to handily win a second term. But Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, rode a wave of support for GOP candidates nationwide, and almost knocked Warner out of the Senate despite being outspent heavily.
Warner said he was focusing now on his next term, which would begin in January, and planned to promote a centrist agenda that could attract bipartisan support. He said he wants “to show that we can get the Senate to actually work.”
Some Gillespie supporters said expressed regret that the national party did not provide Gillespie with more financial backing. National Republican Senatorial Committee leaders did not think they could match Democrats’ spending in Virginia, noting Warner’s personal fortune. Instead, they shipped cash to New Hampshire, narrowing Republican Scott Brown’s disadvantage.
“We invested the last weekend and tried to help on the ground,” NRSC executive director Rob Collins said. “It was a regret that we didn’t have the resources to go in there.”
Collins said he was conflicted throughout the campaign about whether to get more resources to Gillespie.
“Ed’s a great friend and, in some ways, a mentor to me,” Collins said.
Gillespie’s concession did not change the balance of the Senate. Tuesday’s elections put Republicans in control with at least 52 of 100 seats in the chamber.
The Alaska race between Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and GOP challenger Dan Sullivan remains uncalled. In Louisiana, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy are competing in a Dec. 6 runoff.
Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Richmond and Philip Elliott in Washington contributed to this report.
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