The political scene in Virginia was rocked on Tuesday, as The Hill reports, when Democrat Aaron Rouse notched a narrow defeat against Republican Kevin Adams, flipping the state Senate seat vacated by Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA), who was elected to Congress back in November.
Rouse's win was particularly significant to Democrats, given that the seventh Senate district in which it occurred includes parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, and has tended to tilt Republican over the past several cycles.
Local NBC affiliate WAVY reported that, though the margin of victory was extremely slim, unofficial earl results indicated that Rouse prevailed by a sufficient number of votes to prevent his opponent from pursuing a recount unless he paid for it himself.
Thus, at approximately 9:15 on Tuesday night, Rouse – a former Virginia Beach city councilman and NFL player – stood before a crowd of supporters to declare the campaign a success.
“I'm just so excited that Virginia Beach has my back, and I have theirs all the way to Richmond,” Rouse said. “I'm a native here. I grew up in a place where I had a chance to come home and serve on a local governing body. Do good things and [voters] remember that.”
It was not until the next day that Adams conceded the race, as NBC News noted, stating, “While the results last night were not what we wanted, I am proud of the campaign that we ran and so thankful for everyone who believed in me and this campaign along the way.”
The race had been closely watched by advocates on both sides of the abortion debate in Virginia, and because Rouse's win bolstered the Democrats' Senate majority – which now stands at 22-18 – it may pose a real obstacle to Republican efforts to pass a 15-week ban on abortions in the state.
Indeed, as The Hill noted, the contentious issue of abortion played a notable role in Rouse's campaign, and he pledged to oppose Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's move to reduce the legal window for abortions in Virginia from roughly 26 weeks down to 15.
While on the campaign trail, Rouse said that safeguarding abortion access was a matter on which he would “not compromise,” while Adams indicated a willingness to support Youngkin's proposed ban, provided exceptions were in place for the life of the mother and in cases of incest or rape.
Not surprisingly, abortion advocates in the state lauded the election results, with Tarina Keene, executive director of REPRO Rising Virginia declaring, “Reproductive rights and freedom in Virginia have been hanging by a tenuous threat, especially in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, and the only thing standing in the way is a one-vote margin in the Virginia state Senate.”
Keene continued, saying, “It all comes down to one vote, and having Aaron Rouse added to the state Senate in this precarious time only helps shore up reproductive rights and freedom here in the commonwealth. We know that he is a champion for reproductive rights and freedom and will be a solid vote no on any abortion ban that should be introduced in Virginia now.”
Undeterred, Youngkin on Wednesday delivered his State of the Commonwealth address in which he again called on the General Assembly to pass the aforementioned 15-week abortion ban.
“When it comes to unborn children, we can come together, we can choose life, and choose to support mothers, fathers, and families in difficult decisions,” Youngkin said.
Though Republicans hold control over the House of Delegates, the fate of the abortion measure still hangs in the balance, as NBC News noted, because despite the fact that Democrat state Sen. Joe Morrissey recently signaled a willingness to consider the proposal, and Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears has the ability to cast tiebreaking votes in the Senate, Rouse's victory constitutes a significant roadblock for Youngkin and the GOP on this issue.