Democrats make election gains in blow to Trump

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Democrats have taken full control of the Virginia legislature for the first time in more than two decades while the race for governor in deeply Republican Kentucky was too close to call.

Democratic challenger Andy Beshear held a narrow lead and declared victory in the governor’s race over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, although Mr Bevin has not yet conceded.

In Virginia, Democrats flipped control of the state Senate and House, gaining outright control of state government in a state that is often a battleground for the White House.

“I’m here to officially declare today, November 5 2019, that Virginia is officially blue,” Democratic governor Ralph Northam told a crowd of supporters in Richmond.

Election 2019 Virginia
Democratic supporters cheer their candidates at a party event in Richmond (Steve Helber/AP)

Voters in suburban swathes of Kentucky and Virginia sided with Democrats, a trend that would complicate Donald Trump’s path to re-election.

And the Democrats who made gains on Tuesday did so by largely avoiding positions such as “Medicare for All” that have animated the party’s left flank in the Democratic presidential primary.

Democratic gains in Virginia occurred in Washington, DC, and Richmond suburbs that already had trended in the party’s direction in recent years.

In Kentucky, Mr Beshear gained considerable ground on Mr Bevin in suburban counties that had helped propel the Republican to office four years ago.

Other state-wide Republican candidates in Kentucky won by comfortable margins.

Election 2019 Kentucky Governor
Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, right, and his wife, Glenna, speak to supporters (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Mr Trump’s 2020 campaign manager tried to find a positive frame for the results in a state he won by 30 percentage points in 2016.

“The president just about dragged Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end,” Brad Parscale said.

Mr Trump may depend on Mississippi, where he also campaigned in the final stretch before Election Day, for something to crow about.

With Republican governor Phil Bryant term-limited, nominee Tate Reeves defeated Democrat Jim Hood to extend the party’s 20-year hold on the state’s top office.

But even that contest could finish with a single-digit margin in a state Mr Trump won by 28 points three years ago.

The tighter result for Mr Reeves reflected the same suburban trends seen in other states. Heavily Republican counties outside Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, still tilted to the nominee, but by noticeably narrower margins than what Mr Bryant had four years ago to win a second term.

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