Jackson Rebraca, Contributing Writer
After polls projected incumbent Sen. Mark Warner to win the Virginia seat by more than 10 percentage points, election night ended Tuesday with the Democrat only a few points ahead of Republican challenger Daniel Gade.
Warner held a comfortable lead during most of his reelection campaign, leading in polls by no less than 13 points since August, according to RealClearPolitics. This was in stark contrast to the senator’s 2014 victory over Republican opponent Ed Gillespie, where Warner won by only 0.8%.
“There’s nothing in my outer imagination that makes me think Warner can lose this race,” said Quentin Kidd, political science professor at Christopher Newport University.
As of early Wednesday morning, according to the Virginia Department of Elections, Warner held a lead of 55.63% over Gade’s 44.27% with 2,579 precincts of 2,585 reporting. Tentative results include votes that were cast on Election Day and do not include all absentee ballots.
Representatives from the elections department said during a Tuesday press conference that results will continue to be counted through Friday afternoon and possibly throughout the weekend. Localities will certify their results Nov. 10.
Warner graduated from Harvard Law School in 1980 and worked in telecommunications venture capital. Warner has served as a senator since 2009 after serving as Virginia’s governor from 2002-06.
The Democrat serves on multiple committees, most notably as vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, which worked with Robert Mueller in finding evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Gade served in the U.S. Army and holds a doctorate in public administration and policy from the University of Georgia. He served in George W. Bush’s administration and was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, though Gade rejected the nomination.
While running as a Republican, Gade broke from some established GOP talking points. He criticized Trump’s unwillingness to condemn white supremacists and supports ending qualified immunity for police officers.
Qualified immunity protects government officials from being held personally responsible for violating constitutional freedoms so long as no “clearly established” law is broken, according to Cornell Law School. It has come under fire in the wake of protests against police brutality, as activists argue that police operate with too much impunity.
As with every other political race this year, the coronavirus was at the forefront of the U.S. Senate race. In the third debate between Warner and Gade, Gade praised the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, while Warner criticized the president’s response as inadequate, referencing a lack of national testing plans and other issues.
Gade criticized Warner for voting against a Republican-backed COVID-19 relief bill, one which was widely opposed by Democrats for not providing enough help to unemployed citizens.
In the final debate of the race, Warner accused Gade of wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end protections for people with preexisting conditions. Gade, who lost a leg in a Humvee explosion while serving in Iraq, denied the allegation.
“I have a pre-existing condition myself because I got my leg blown off in Iraq,” Gade said.
Warner’s campaign raised a total of $16,766,370, while Gade’s raised $4,016,205, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The largest contribution to Warner’s campaign was $214,015 from the Warner Victory Fund. The largest contribution Gade received was from the Gade Victory Committee for $5,375.
Results for this race are as of 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday.