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Riggleman holds district seat for GOP / November 08, 2018

Republican candidates maintained their electoral dominance in Halifax County and the 5th Congressional District even as the GOP had a less-than-stellar night in Virginia and across the country on Election Day.

Riding the support of the 5th District’s rural areas, GOP candidate Denver Riggleman won Tuesday’s midterm election to represent the area in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Riggleman, a Nelson County distillery owner, defeated journalist-turned-candidate Leslie Cockburn by a 6.5 percent margin— a much narrower win in the 5th than incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Garrett claimed in 2016. Garrett, who is retiring from Congress after one term to seek treatment for alcoholism, won the seat two years ago with 58.2 percent of the district-wide vote.

This time around, Riggleman took 53.2 percent of the 310,824 ballots cast in the 5th. Cockburn claimed 46.7 percent. The spread was slightly more than 20,000 votes, with Riggleman getting 165,286 votes to 144,990 for Cockburn, the Democratic nominee.

In Halifax County, the margin of victory for Riggleman was wider: he claimed 7,841 votes to 5,789 for Cockburn, a 57.4-42.4 percent victory.

Two years ago, Garrett bested his then-Democratic opponent, Jane Dittmar, by a 60.5-39.8 percent margin in Halifax County. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the county by a smaller, 57.1-40.6 percent spread in 2016.

Riggleman was the lone Republican to prevail in Virginia’s four most hotly-contested congressional races. Three Virginia seats previously held by Republican incumbents flipped to Democrats as the national party ended the GOP’s stranglehold of Congress.

Democrats retook the House even as Republicans fortified their majority in the U.S. Senate. With more than a dozen races still uncalled after Tuesday night’s returns, Democrats appeared on track to pick up some three dozen seats in Congress — more than the 23 needed for a majority — while Republicans had a net gain of three seats in the Senate, with other wins possible as the vote tally is finalized.

The three Virginia seats that flipped are in the northern Virginian 10th Congressional District, where GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock was trounced by Democratic state senator Jennifer Wexton; in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District, where former naval commander Elaine Luria edged out incumbent Scott Taylor; and in the Richmond-area 7th District, where Tea Party darling Dave Brat lost to former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger.

In bucking the trend around Virginia, Riggleman tapped into overwhelming Republican support in Bedford, Appomattox, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties while Cockburn — a first-time candidate — scored lopsided victories in Charlottesville, Danville and other more urban parts of the district.

Cockburn nearly defeated Riggleman in his home county of Nelson, taking 49.8 percent of the vote to the Republican’s 50 percent. Returning the favor, Riggleman carried Rappahannock County, where Cockburn resides, by a 52.6-47.3 percent margin.

Cockburn won an eye-popping 85 percent of the vote in the City of Charlottesville. Riggleman’s best locality was Bedford County, which handed him a 73.7 percent victory.

In the only statewide race on the ballot, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine easily won re-election to a third six-year term. Kaine thrashed his Republican challenger, Prince William County supervisor Corey Stewart, by a 16-point margin, 57-41 percent.

The story was otherwise in Halifax County, where Stewart claimed 7,689 votes, 56.2 percent, and Kaine trailed with 5,867 votes, or 42.9 percent. The remaining local vote went to Libertarian candidate Matt Waters, who received 119 votes, and a handful of write-in ballots.

Halifax County had 13,682 people vote in the Senate election, well behind the 2016 presidential year turnout of 17,001 voters but far ahead of the participation in the last congressional midterm election, in 2014. Then, 9,131 people showed up to vote in the House contest won by former Republican congressman Robert Hurt. This year’s voter turnout in Halifax County was 57 percent, a rare high for a midterm ballot.

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