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Election Recap: Democrats Make Gains in Big Night, But Still Far Behind in State Control

New Governors in New Jersey & Virginia

Democrats met early expectations securing the governor's mansion in New Jersey and keeping their party in control of the Virginia governor's office. In New Jersey, Phil Murphy (D), former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, easily defeated Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R) to replace term-limited Chris Christie (R). Although polls tightened in the final days of the race, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D) convincingly defeated former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) in Virginia to replace term-limited Terry McAuliffe (D).

Down ballot, Democrats continued their sweep in statewide offices in Virginia with Justin Fairfax (D) and Mark Herring (D) winning the elections for Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively. In New Jersey, where candidates for governor pick a running mate (similar to U.S. Presidential elections), Phil Murhpy's victory will make his running mate, Sheila Oliver (D), the next Lt. Governor of New Jersey.

Partisan Control Switches in Washington Senate — And Potentially Virginia House

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night occurred in the 100 Virginia house races (the entire chamber) that were up for grabs. Republicans started the night with a 66 to 34 advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates. But after networks called the governors race for Northam, eyes turned to the house races as Democrats flipped at least 15 seats from Republicans Tuesday night with four additional races close enough to qualify for a recount. Democrats need to flip 16 seats to reach a 50-50 split in the chamber, while a 17 seat gain would hand Democrats control of the House of Delegates. Therefore, if the Democratic candidate pulls ahead in two of the four recounts, then the Democrats will earn control of the chamber while winning just one of the four recounts will split the House of Delegates 50-50.

On the other side of the country, the fate of the Washington Senate rested on a pivotal special election in which Manka Dhingra (D) defeated Jinyoung Lee Englund (R). The victory breaks the current one-vote coalition giving Republicans control of the state senate chamber and handing Democrats control of both legislative chambers and the governor's mansion.

Democrats Gain Complete Control in Two States, Still Greatly Lag Republican Advantage

With victories in the New Jersey gubernatorial race and the special election pick up in the Washington Senate, Democrats have secured two additional states where they control both chambers of the legislature as well as the governor's office. And with big gains in the Virginia House and Governor-elect Northam's victory, Democrats have pulled partisan control in Virginia much closer (no state senate seats were up for election in Virginia, where Republicans hold a narrow 21 to 19 advantage). However, while raising the number of states where they have secured one-party control, Democrats still lag Republicans eight states to 26 in that category.

Special Elections for Legislative Seats in Ten States

Democrats flipped three seats in the Georgia legislature, two in the House. The Georgia Senate seat vacated by Republican Hunter Hill will go to a December run-off election between two Democrats — Jaha Howard and Jen Howard — flipping the seat blue either way. Democrats also flipped a seat in the New Hampshire House on Tuesday, after flipping another one back in September. In Michigan, two open Democratic House seats, one covering part of Detroit and some suburbs, remained in Democratic control as did one in the Upper Peninsula. Republicans did hold onto legislative seats in Maine House District 56, and two Missouri legislative seats, although the party had to spend a lot of money to hold onto a Senate seat in suburban Kansas City.

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Mayoral Elections 

Democrats picked up the majority of the mayoral seats being contested last night in places where party was indicated on the ballot. Carlos Hernandez in Hialeah, Florida, was the lone Republican to claim victory.

Vi Lyles (D) defeated Kenny Smith (R) 59 percent to 40 percent to be the next mayor of Charlotte. Republicans found themselves surprised by the margin of victory as October polls were essentially showing a tie. Lyles becomes the first black female mayor of Charlotte.

Jenny Durkan defeated Cary Moon in Seattle's open seat race to become the first female mayor in Seattle since the 1920s. Detroit's non-partisan race featured incumbent Mike Duggan running for re-election against the son of former longtime Mayor Coleman Young, who served from 1974 to 1994, state Senator Coleman Young II (D). Duggan's margin of victory was 72 percent to 28 percent. Jacob Frey will be the second youngest mayor in Minneapolis' history. He defeated 15 other candidates, including incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges, through the complicated procedure of ranked-choice voting.

Two cities have yet to hold final elections to determine the next mayor. Albuquerque's will take place on November 14. Atlanta will hold a runoff election on December 5 between the top two vote-getters, Keisha Bottoms and Mary Norwood.

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Max Rieper and Rachel Arnold contributed to this post.

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