Gillespie concedes Virginia Senate race to Warner, analysts call for investigation into polling practices



U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie (left) of Virginia. Photo Courtesy: Phil Tram Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) (right) Photo Courtesy: United States Senate
U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie (left) of Virginia. Photo Courtesy: Phil Tram
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) (right) Photo Courtesy: United States Senate

Updated Nov. 7, 2014, 1:17 p.m. —The Republican challenger to Sen. Mark Warner (D) in Virginia’s Senate race, Ed Gillespie, conceded to the incumbent Friday after the end of the canvassing process and said that he would not seek a recount, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the surprising closeness of the race is causing some political analysts to call for an investigation into how polling is conducted in the state.

As all the votes were counted, Warner narrowly edged Gillespie by about 16,000 votes — winning by 49 percent to Gillespie’s 48. It is the narrowest margin of victory in any of Warner’s three victorious Senate races.

Though significantly behind Warner in the polls for most of the election cycle, Gillespie significantly closed the gap in the final week, but still surprised pollsters and experts by the how close the actual vote ended up being.

Once again, the inaccuracy of polling conducted on the race, as with polls prior to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss, are now being criticized by political experts. Larry Sabato, editor-in-chief of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, is publicly calling for an “investigation” into Virginia polling and a “house cleaning”.

“I want an investigation of the polls in Virginia. They were completely wrong just as they were in Georgia,” Sabato told the hosts of the show Fox & Friends Wednesday morning. “They were also way off in Illinois. And I could go on and on. Boy is that an industry that needs some house cleaning. And Virginia’s a good example, I don’t know whether it was a combination by the Warner people. I think certainly a smart campaign by Ed Gillespie who came very close to being a U.S. Senator and now has set himself up to run for governor perhaps in 2017, or another major office. So all elections have consequences beyond the actual day. That’s a good example.”

Nov. 5, 2014 — Nearly a full day after the midterm election, the Virginia Senate race between incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie has no official winner and remains too close to call despite nearly all of the votes having been counted.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Warner leads Gillespie by a narrow margin of 49.2 to 48.4 percent of the vote with 99.9 percent of precincts reporting – a difference of only 16,727 votes. Although Warner declared victory in his speech last night, Gillespie refused to concede the race, leaving open the possibility of a recount.

According to the Washington Post, volunteers from both parties will have until noon on Friday to canvass the vote and look for any discrepancies. Following this process, the election must be certified by a meeting of the Virginia Board of Elections, which will deliver its decision on Nov. 24.

Under Virginia election law, a losing candidate may ask for a recount if there is less than 1 percent difference between the two candidates. If the vote is within 0.5 percent, then the recount will be taxpayer funded. If more, then the losing candidate must finance the recount.

Although national pollsters predicted a GOP victory in most of the country’s contested Senate races, Gillespie’s close margin came as a complete surprise. As late as last Friday, a poll conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy showed Gillespie trailing Warner by 7 percent in a poll with a 3.9 percent margin of error.

Before then, Gillespie had been narrowing the gap behind Warner from around September where he trailed by as much as 25 percent.

Gillespie led Warner through most of election night as votes were being counted. This was because rural, more conservative precincts reported their votes before the more populous, urban areas that traditionally favor Democrats. As usual, Gillespie beat Warner in the rural southern and western regions while Warner held on to most of the metropolitan areas and what’s known as the ‘urban crescent’ – which runs from northern Virginia down to the Richmond area, east into the Hampton Roads and Tidewater areas. Yet, Warner lost a few key counties that were won by President Barack Obama when he won the state in the 2012 Presidential Election.

At press time, the only county not finished counting its vote is Albemarle County, which surrounds Charlottesville – a liberal stronghold which is home of the University of Virginia. Currently, Warner leads Gillespie in Albemarle County by 54.1 to 42.4 percent, with 96.6 percent counted.

[email protected]   @dmitriyshapiro

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