Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine re-elected to U.S. Senate

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine defeated a hardcore supporter of President Donald Trump Tuesday to win re-election to the U.S. Senate.

The first-term senator who was Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016 defeated Republican Corey Stewart, reaffirming Virginia's status as a blue-leaning state.

Several GOP-held congressional districts were still too close to call, but Kaine's easy win is encouraging news for Democrats trying to flip at least four House seats.

"We have to keep Virginia moving and put our country back on the right track. That starts now," Kaine said on Twitter after the Associated Press called the race in his favor.

Trump was a key focal point of the Senate contest. Kaine's campaign focused on the need for an inclusive government that worked "for all."

Stewart accused Kaine of opposing the president's agenda for political gain, even at Virginia's expense.

The victory was widely expected as Kaine enjoyed large leads in most public pre-election polls and had a huge cash advantage. Virginia was also home to a blue wave last year, when Democrats won all three statewide contests and made gains in the state House. No Republican has won a statewide race in Virginia for almost a decade.

Because of Kaine's perceived advantage, the Senate contest in Virginia flew under the radar. More competitive races around the country that could decide control of the upper chamber drew more attention and interest from deep-pocketed outside groups.

Kaine and Stewart often had heated clashes during their three candidate debates, but the rest of the race was largely one-sided. Kaine had more than $20 million to spend on the race and blanketed the state with TV ads. Stewart had only a fraction to spend and relied mostly on social media to try and amplify his voice.

Best known for his outspoken support of Confederate imagery, Stewart is a one-time Trump state campaign chairman. But he received almost no help from the White House — Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Virginia multiple times but never campaigned with Stewart.

Kaine spent much of the campaign trying to help Democratic U.S. House candidates win GOP-held seats, even in deep red parts of the state.