Deeds wins Va. governor's primary

Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds has run away with the Democratic nomination for governor, taking up his party’s mantle in one of two key 2009 governor’s races.

With 74 percent of the vote in, Deeds had 51 percent, far outpacing former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former state Del. Brian Moran, who were at 26 and 23 percent, respectively. The Associated Press has named him the winner.

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Deeds came from behind in the final weeks of the campaign, after McAuliffe and Moran went after each other. The state senator also benefited from his Southern Virginia roots, as the two Northern Virginia candidates wound up splitting their base.

Deeds heads into a general election that will be a rematch of the 2005 state attorney general race, which he lost by the smallest of margins — about 300 votes — to current Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R).

The rematch should look plenty different, though, as Deeds will have the national party behind him in a race that will be cast as having national implications. He was badly outspent in the 2005 matchup with McDonnell, who without a primary has built up another war chest for the November general election.

Virginia’s and New Jersey’s governors races are the only two in the year after a presidential election, and are often looked to as a gauge of the national political environment.

In New Jersey, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie won the GOP nomination last week to face incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Christie has polled a double-digit lead in that race, and he and McDonnell give Republicans a good shot at taking two governors' mansions from Democrats.

The winner in Virginia will replace Gov. Tim Kaine (D), who because of state law is only allowed to serve one term.

Deeds was the underdog for much of the primary and was outraised by both of his opponents, but his campaign seemed to catch fire after The Washington Post offered a somewhat surprising endorsement and the other two candidates began waging war against each other.

McAuliffe lost despite national support from Democratic Governors Association Chairman Brian Schweitzer, who endorsed McAuliffe last week in his capacity as governor of Montana. McAuliffe also benefited from his many fundraising connections as a Clinton confidant and former national party chairman.