With 2,535 of the state’s 2,557 precincts reporting as of 11:55 p.m., Warner held a 14,510-vote lead over Gillespie, 49.07 percent to 48.40 percent. Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis was a distant third with 53,139 votes, 2.47 percent.
The margin between the top two candidates on the ballot, 0.67 percent, is outside the .5 percent that under state law would allow Gillespie to request a taxpayer-funded recount, but within the 1 percent that would allow Gillespie to request a recount that would have to be paid for by his campaign.
Warner had led by double digits in most of the final-month pre-election polls, with the last one to be shared publicly, from Christopher Newport University, released on Oct. 31, getting the attention of observers because it showed Warner up by only seven points.
Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chair making his first bid for public office, would make a much stronger showing than the polls had suggested, running very well in Southwest, Southside and the 29 corridor in Central Virginia.
With those precincts making up the bulk of the early returns, Gillespie was up on the big scoreboard for much of the night, and only trailed late when vote-rich counties in northern virginia started coming in for Warner.
Warner’s working margin came in Fairfax County, which he won by 51,000 votes of the 290,000-plus votes cast. The Democrat also won the City of Richmond, the state’s capital, by 27,000 votes, neighboring Henrico County by 12,000 votes, the City of Norfolk by 17,000 votes, and Portsmouth by 11,000 votes.
Augusta County and Rockingham County, two traditional Republican strongholds, were big sources of votes for Gillespie, each providing 9,000-vote margins for the Republican, both also giving Gillespie more than 71 percent of the vote.