Democrat Tim Kaine was elected governor of Virginia over Republican Jerry Kilgore in a race widely regarded as a barometer of the public mood before the 2006 congressional elections. Kaine's victory, 52 percent to 46 percent with almost all votes counted, was a setback for U.S. President George W. Bush, who made a last-minute appearance for Kilgore, a former Virginia attorney general, despite his own political troubles and declining popularity.
Tuesday's loss could convince some vulnerable Republicans that they should distance themselves from Bush, whose job approval has plummeted as problems like the war in Iraq, the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the indictment of a senior White House aide in the CIA leak probe have piled up.
"Tonight the people of Virginia have sent a message loud and clear that they like the path that we chose and they want to keep Virginia moving forward," Kaine, the current lieutenant governor, told a victory rally Tuesday night, Reuters reports.
Kaine's win in a Republican-leaning southern state gives incumbent governor and potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Mark Warner - who campaigned heavily for his No. 2 - a political boost.
"May I just say I'm looking forward to standing with you at your next victory party," Kaine told Warner.
Warner is barred by state law from seeking a second term.