Republicans have won 50 seats in the Virginia House, ensuring at least a tie with Democrats – who had fought to retain control.
Every Republican House incumbent won re-election, including eight whose seats were uncontested. The party flipped at least five Democratic seats, including those in two of the last remaining districts held by Democrats in predominantly rural districts.
Several races were still too early to call, but the Grand Old Party also declared victory in some of those, with party leaders saying they were confident they had flipped control of the House.
The Republican gains are part of a seismic win for the GOP in Virginia, as Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin captured the governor’s office and Republican Winsome Sears won the lieutenant governor’s race in Tuesday’s election.
Mr Youngkin defeated former Virginia Gov Terry McAuliffe, while Ms Sears beat Democrat Hala Ayala. She will become the state’s first female lieutenant governor and the first woman of colour to win statewide office in Virginia.
Tuesday’s election was seen as a referendum on a series of progressive reforms that Democrats have enacted over the past two years.
Republicans criticised the policies promoted by Democrats to try to convince voters that once-conservative Virginia has moved too far to the left, including the repeal of the death penalty, the legalisation of marijuana, a loosening of abortion restrictions and a series of police reforms.
Democrats held a 55-45 majority heading into Tuesday’s election, but Republicans waged an aggressive campaign to flip up to 13 seats held by Democrats whom they considered vulnerable.
The GOP needs to flip at least six seats to regain the majority the party lost in 2019. Democrats still hold a slim 21-19 majority over Republicans in the Senate. Senators are not up for re-election until 2023.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn acknowledged that the results were not what Democrats were hoping for but said there are still several tight races “that will determine the majority” as votes continue to be counted. The state Department of Elections has said that ballots postmarked by November 2 will be counted through noon on Friday.
“We are going to make sure every Virginian’s voice is heard and every vote is counted,” Ms Filler-Corn said in a statement.
Republicans had controlled the House since 2000, but Democrats won back 15 GOP-held seats in 2017, helped by voter hostility toward then-president Donald Trump.
In 2019, Democrats took full control of the legislature by wiping out slim Republican majorities in the House and Senate.