RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican David Owen held a narrow lead over Democrat Susanna Gibson in a Virginia House of Delegates race that drew attention after revelations that Gibson engaged in sex acts with her husband on a pornographic website, but the margin left the race too early to call.
Gibson ran against Owen in one of the state’s most competitive districts after all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were redrawn to conform with the 2020 Census.
Many political scientists wrote off Gibson’s chances after news outlets reported in September about her participation in livestreamed sex, which included soliciting payments from viewers in exchange for specific acts.
But Gibson, a nurse practitioner, refused to withdraw from the race, and accused Republicans of dirty politics for exposing her conduct. She largely ignored the allegations and focused on abortion rights, which Democrats said could be in jeopardy if Republicans gained control of the Legislature. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has been seeking a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.
The race had been pegged as one of several that could determine control in the House of Delegates. But even if Owen hangs on to win, Republicans statewide lost control of the House of Delegates. Democrats have won at least 51 of the 100 seats in the chamber.
Owen issued a statement on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, thanking voters and claiming victory.
“I will begin work immediately to provide the unity, common-sense leadership, and responsive service that I promised,” he said.
Democrats also maintained their narrow margin in the state Senate.
Those legislative victories will allow Democrats to block Youngkin’s policy agenda, though they will have to work with him to advance their own.
Sonny Yeary, 59, a graphic designer from Henrico, said he voted straight Republican, including for Owen, Gibson’s opponent. Yeary said he probably would have voted for Owen anyway but that Gibson’s sex videos bothered him.
“It was the way it came out,” Yeary said. “If it had been out there already, that would have been one thing. But don’t act like Miss Wholesome and then have this come out.”
Donna Taylor, 54, an office manager from Henrico County, just outside Richmond, said she voted for Gibson.
“I figure if we can put up with the hundreds of years of Republican scandals, what she is doing with consenting adults and her private lifestyle does not affect my opinion of her whatsoever and her ability to do the job that she said she is going to do,” Taylor said.
Republicans sought to remind voters of Gibson’s videos. The Republican Party of Virginia sent mailers to voters that contained screenshots. The envelopes warned recipients that explicit materials were contained inside and that minors should not open the envelope.
Gibson answered the GOP attacks to some extent Monday in an op-ed piece for the left-leaning website Blue Virginia, labeling her GOP attackers as “politicians who feel they have a right to know what goes on in our private lives and the power to control what we do with our bodies.”
The 57th District includes parts of Richmond’s western suburbs in Henrico and Goochland counties. The nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project rated it the third most competitive of Virginia’s 100 House of Delegates districts, with only a very slight lean toward Republicans, based on recent voting patterns. Virginia voters do not register by party.