RICHMOND, Va. — Voters in Virginia and New Jersey gave Democratic gubernatorial candidates large victories Tuesday.
In Virginia, Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie.
In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy overcame Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to succeed Gov. Chris Christie, who was term limited.
The wins in Virginia and New Jersey are a morale boost to Democrats who had been unable to channel anti-Trump energy into success at the ballot box in a major election this year.
Mr. Northam repeatedly sought during months of divisive campaigning to tie Mr. Gillespie to President Trump.
Democrats said they had record levels of enthusiasm heading into the race in Virginia, a swing-state and the only Southern state that Mr. Trump lost last year.
Mr. Gillespie, meanwhile, sought to keep Mr. Trump at a distance throughout the campaign but tried to rally the President’s supporters with hard-edge attack ads focused on illegal immigration and preserving Confederate statues.
The strategy was criticized by Democrats and some Republicans as race baiting, but drew praise from former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and others as a canny way to win a state that voted for Hillary Clinton last year.
Mr. Trump lent limited pre-election support to Mr. Gillespie.
Traveling in Asia this week, Mr. Trump reacted on Twitter to the election developments.
“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for,” Mr. Trump wrote.
He also pointed out that Republicans have won every special election to the U.S. House since he was elected.
Mr. Northam’s victory is a blow to Republicans, who were hoping that Mr. Gillespie could provide a possible road map for moderate Republicans to follow in next year’s midterm elections.
Several Republicans have announced plans to retire next year instead of seeking re-election.
Mr. Gillespie struck a humble tone in his concession speech as he offered support to Mr. Northam.
He wiped tears from his eyes while thanking his wife and said the million people who voted for him love Virginia, and so do those who disagree with them.
“And I know they too are rooting for our new governor to succeed because we all love the commonwealth of Virginia,” Mr. Gillespie said.
Mr. Northam, a pediatric neurologist and Army doctor, made health care reform a centerpiece of his political career and current campaign, winning key allies along the way.
In New Jersey, Mr. Murphy said his party’s victory sends a message to Mr. Trump that the country is “better” than his politics of division.
Mr. Murphy invoked the President by name during his roughly 15-minute victory speech.
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