SPRINGFIELD, Va. — Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is conceding to Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerTop Senate Dem: ‘Grave concerns’ about independence of Russia probe Dems worry too much about upsetting others. That needs to stop. Washington-area lawmakers request GAO report on DC Metro MORE (D-Va.) after a surprisingly close race against the sitting senator.
Gillespie was viewed as a major underdog heading into Election Day against Warner, but led the senator through much of election night before Warner pulled ahead by roughly 17,000 votes. Virginia's official vote canvass concluded Friday afternoon.
"We surprised a lot of experts Tuesday night," he said.
The sunny GOP power broker remained upbeat during his concession speech, pointing out that he'd begun the race 29 points down in his internal polling and lost by a much smaller margin than public polling had predicted.
"I've loved every minute of it. Well this one, maybe not so much," he said.
Gillespie's strong showing against the popular Warner puts him in a good position to run for governor in 2017 should he decide to undertake a bid.
Gillespie stayed upbeat throughout the speech, thanking his staff and advisers one by one. But at the end, his voice cracked as he thanked his family.
"It would have been nice to be called senator but the best thing I've ever been called is dad," he said before hugging his family and some supporters on his way out the door.
Warner said later in a statement that Gillespie had indeed called him to concede, adding, "I commended him on a hard-fought campaign and wish him and his family well. I am sure Ed Gillespie will continue to contribute to the debate in Virginia and the nation."
“Representing Virginia has been the honor of my life, and I am gratified that the people of the Commonwealth have rehired me for a new term," Warner continued. "On Tuesday, Virginians sent an unmistakable message both to me and Congress as a whole: end the gridlock and get to work."
Gillespie's concession means Republicans are on pace to have 54 seats in the next Senate, assuming Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan's lead over Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (D-Alaska) holds and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) defeats Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) in a runoff, as seems likely.
—This story was updated at 2:35 p.m.