By Janey Fugate and Carolyn Holtzman
Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe visited the Executive Mansion in Richmond Thursday and had lunch with current Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McAuliffe said during his campaign that he would strive for bipartisanship.
McAuliffe narrowly defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia’s governor’s race Tuesday. Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis was a distant third.
McDonnell talked to the media after the lunch and again stressed the importance of McAuliffe’s working from both sides of the aisle.
McAuliffe called his predecessor a class act.
Democrat and Virginia Military Institute graduate Ralph Northam was elected lieutenant governor over Republican E.W. Jackson, but in the contest for attorney general between Democrat Mark Herring and Republican Mark Obenshain the outcome was still in doubt late Tuesday. Obenshain led Herring by about 1 percentage point with about 97 percent of the votes counted.
McAuliffe had enjoyed a big lead in fundraising, and polls consistently showed him ahead in the weeks leading up to Tuesday. But the result was much closer than the polls indicated.
The Associated Press, New York Times and major television networks declared McAuliffe the winner by 10 p.m., even though McAuliffe led by less than 1.5 percentage points with nearly all the vote counted. Slightly more than 2 million votes were cast statewide.
It was the first time since the early 1970s that the party in the White House also won Virginia’s governor’s mansion.
In the governor’s race in 2009, Lexington voters went solidly for Democrat Creigh Deeds over Republican Bob McDonnell, 911 to 592.
In the attorney general’s race the same year, the majority of Lexington voters also cast their ballots against Cuccinelli.
Rockbridge County’s election results four years ago echoed Tuesday’s. In 2009 every precinct in Rockbridge County voted Republican in the governor’s race, according to the state Board of Elections.
Cuccinelli and McAuliffe both made an appearance locally at the Buena Vista Labor Day parade in September. The parade is seen as the traditional kickoff of the gubernatorial campaign.
Washington and Lee University politics Professor Mark Rush attributed the partisan divide between Rockbridge County and Lexington to the presence of Lexington’s two universities, Washington and Lee and the Virginia Military Institute. Washington and Lee is the area’s biggest employer, and university faculty are traditionally more liberal, Rush said.
“That’s not 100 percent the rule, but it’s pretty much the rule,” he said. “It’s not terribly surprising to find that.”
“I don’t think you’re going to see much in the way of big turnout or anything else,” said Rush. “People are generally demoralized.”
That disillusionment comes from the partisan divide at the federal level and translates into the now-notorious negative campaign ads, Rush said.
Rockbridge County Democratic Committee Chair Joe Skovira said that had altered how his group portrayed the race.
“The philosophy of the party is a more prominent selling point than perhaps the way the candidate has sold himself,” Skovira said of McAuliffe. “He hasn’t given us the ammunition for what he stands for as much as for what the other guy is standing for.”
The Associated Press also contributed to this story.