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Posted November 6, 2012 | comments 3 Comments

Close Senate contest goes to Tim Kaine

By Bob Lewis - AP Political Writer

RICHMOND -- Tim Kaine defeated Republican George Allen on Tuesday, keeping both of Virginia's Senate seats in Democratic hands.

All 11 of Virginia's U.S. House members cruised to easy victories over little-known challengers.

Allen conceded defeat to Kaine shortly before 11 p.m., and the race was called for Kaine shortly thereafter.

Spending in the Senate race topped $80 million, obliterating all records for a statewide race in Virginia. The majority, $53 million, came from outside, independent organizations, many of which do not have to disclose their wealthy donors. That's the largest amount for any Senate contest in the country this election cycle. About 60 percent of that money was spent either in opposition to Kaine or support of Allen.

In U.S. House races, the eight incumbent Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and three Democrats all easily brushed off little-known, sparsely funded challengers.

Voters by overwhelming margins approved two constitutional amendments.

One limits eminent domain, which is the government's ability to take private property for economic development needs. Virginia's legislature outlawed the practice in 2007, leading opponents to say the amendment is not needed.

The other makes a constitutional change giving the General Assembly more leeway in setting its one-day reconvened session each spring where it considers gubernatorial vetoes and amendments to legislation.

Long lines at voting precincts across the state created exhausting waits for voters, many of whom braved temperatures in the 40s. Some gave up and went home.

Don Palmer, executive secretary of the State Board of Elections, said extensive queues would force polls to remain open in some of the state's largest localities hours beyond their 7 p.m. closing times. They included the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Giles, Halifax, Henrico, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Culpeper and Montgomery and the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and Virginia Beach.

In Prince William County, officials expected some precincts to remain open until nearly 11 p.m. to accommodate voters who had taken their spots in line by 7 p.m.

The state's new voter ID law was not a factor. The law required people who lacked proper identification to vote a provisional ballot that would count only if local registrars receive proof of identity by noon Friday. But the SBE had received fewer than 500 provisional ballots by 10 p.m. The law was passed by Republicans in the name of preventing fraud, but was decried by critics as a bid to suppress the votes of Democratic constituencies such as minorities, the poor, elderly and disabled.

In a heavily Democratic, mostly black area near downtown Richmond, chief election officer Susan Woodson said that by midafternoon, more than 1,500 of the precinct's 3,000 registered voters had cast ballots, and only five required provisional ballots because of the new law.

In the campaign's final week, both presidential candidates and their A-list surrogates have blanketed Virginia, which for 40 years was a reliably Republican afterthought in presidential politics.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat in Prince William County, Va., and Brock Vergakis in Richmond contributed to this report.

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