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Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington) was elected as Virginia’s first openly gay state senator Nov. 8, even as other politicians who oppose LGBT equality won victories and Democrats likely lost control of the upper chamber.
With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Ebbin, who will replace retiring state Sen. Patsy Ticer (D) in a district that includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and Alexandria, led his opponent, Republican Tim McGhee, with 67 percent of counted votes, versus McGhee’s 33 percent, according to results from the Virginia Board of Elections.
“It feels wonderful,” Ebbin said of his victory. “It’s been almost 11 months of planning and campaigning, so it’s a relief to see that come to fruition. The margin and the confidence of the people of the 30th District is amazing.”
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, dedicated to helping elect qualified LGBT candidates, endorsed Ebbin and released a statement once the results were announced.
“We’re thrilled for Adam and for LGBT Virginians, who will finally have an authentic LGBT voice in the state Senate,” Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe said in the statement.
In other races, out gay Republican Patrick Forrest, who also was endorsed by the Victory Fund, lost his race to incumbent state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax).
In terms of the balance of the Legislature, as of late Nov. 8, Republicans had won or were leading in 20 of 40 senate races. State Sens. Roscoe Reynolds (D-Martinsville) and Edd Houck (D-Spotsylvania) were the only incumbents who failed to win re-election, with Reynolds losing by just more than 1 percent to challenger William Stanley, and Houck losing by a few hundred votes to Bryce Reeves, according to the State Board of Elections website. A recount in the latter race is likely.
Meanwhile, Republicans continued to make gains in the House of Delegates.
LGBT groups viewed the results as a disappointment, since a split Senate gives Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) a tie-breaking vote, effectively giving control to the Republicans, many of whom are not allies of the LGBT community.
“It’s not good, but it could be worse,” said Claire Gastañaga, a spokeswoman for LGBT equality organization Equality Virginia. “We gained a couple of friends, but not as many allies as enemies.”
Gastañaga praised Ebbin’s victory, saying he and fellow Arlington Democrat Barbara Favola would be great allies in helping to push fair-minded legislation to benefit LGBT people in Virginia. She also said a win by Alfonso Lopez, who takes over Ebbin’s seat in the House of Delegates, was a positive development.
However, she said other races were big disappointments, with some House members who were LGBT allies losing their seats due to newly gerrymandered districts. Gastañaga said that if Democrats lose their majority in the Senate, they will no longer be able to block unfriendly legislation passed by the more conservative House of Delegates.
Still other frustrations included a win by former Del. Richard Black (R-Loudon) in an open state Senate district.
“Dick Black heading back to the Senate is a hard pill to swallow,” Gastañaga said. “His return might signal the advent of legislation such as banning gay adoptions, which is disheartening.”