Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been elected Virginia's next governor, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli after pledging to expand the state's Medicaid rolls and portraying his rival as someone who would turn back years of progress.

"Thank you for the honor of electing me to serve as the 72nd governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia," McAuliffe tweeted. ""I hope that once we start to make bipartisan progress on critical issues like jobs and education that I can earn your trust."

Turnout for Tuesday's election was low, and both candidates worked through Election Day to reach as many potential voters as possible.

McAuliffe, who once led the Democratic National Committee and is a confidant of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, said he would expand Medicaid to provide health coverage for 400,000 people under the federal health care law. By contrast, Cuccinelli, the current attorney general, vehemently opposed the law and was the first to challenge it in court.

McAuliffe thanked his supporters, including Republicans who crossed party lines, for voting for him.

McAuliffe fared well among women, blacks, low-income voters, abortion-rights supporters, city dwellers and people affected by the recent government shutdown.

Cuccinelli did best among whites, tea party supporters, opponents of the federal health-care reform law, gun owners and rural residents, and he held a slight edge among independents.

"Although I lost, you sent the President of the United States a message," Cuccinelli said, referring to President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

The victory for McAuliffe comes after an unsuccessful run for Governor in 2009.

WDBJ7's Joe Dashiell contributed to this report