Ex-Virginia Lt. Gov. cruises to victory
© Courtesy of Don Beyer for Congress

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (D) has won the crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

The Associated Press has called the race for Beyer, who led with 45 percent of the vote and 68 percent of precincts reporting. Virginia state Del. Patrick Hope (D) trailed him with 20 percent of the vote, with seven other candidates on the ballot splitting the rest of the vote.

Beyer's primary win in the liberal Northern Virginia district all but guarantees him a seat in Congress next year.

The former two-term lieutenant governor's win marks his first campaign in nearly two decades, he lost a gubernatorial race in 1997. But he's stayed involved in politics ever since, and was a major donor and supporter for both President Obama's 2008 campaign and then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's (D) 2004 presidential bid.

Those connections came back to help him. The wealthy auto dealer spent more than $1 million on the race, most of it raised from donors. Dean headlined a campaign event for him, as did top Obama alumni Jim Messina, Julianna Smoot and Melody Barnes. David Axelrod and David Plouffe also helped out, as did New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

"Tonight is the culmination of the hard work, the heartfelt values, and the shared ideas of many, many, many good people," Beyer told supporters, according to his prepared remarks. "We must carry the Virginia ideals of integrity, community, progress, and compassion forward to all voters."

The 63-year-old Beyer, who's also a former ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, starts in Congress as a back-bencher, but his fundraising prowess could help him quickly build power within the Democratic caucus.