Virginia Democrat holds US Senate seat in nailbiter

US Senate Democrat Mark Warner (pictured above, on Nov 3, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia with supporters) has won re-election, with his Republican rival conceding Friday after their unexpectedly tight race in Virginia. -- PHOTO: AFP
US Senate Democrat Mark Warner (pictured above, on Nov 3, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia with supporters) has won re-election, with his Republican rival conceding Friday after their unexpectedly tight race in Virginia. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Senate Democrat Mark Warner has won re-election, with his Republican rival conceding Friday after their unexpectedly tight race in Virginia.

Warner won a second six-year term, although this time just 16,540 votes separated him from challenger Ed Gillespie, out of 2.18 million votes cast, according to the state board of elections.

It was much-delayed relief for Democrats after Republicans gained at least seven Senate seats in Tuesday's midterm election and won the majority in the chamber for the first time in eight years.

Warner's race had barely registered among pollsters and forecasters, who figured he would coast to re-election.

But Warner, who rode Barack Obama's coat tails to victory in 2008, saw his support shrivel this year, particularly in rural Virginia.

Warner had claimed victory Tuesday night but Gillespie said the race was too close to call at the time, waiting until a Friday press conference to throw in the towel.

"I've called Mark Warner this morning to congratulate him on his re-election, to thank him for his public service to the commonwealth" and to wish him well, Gillespie said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Senate now stands at 52 Republicans and 46 Democrats, with two Democratic-held seats, in Alaska and Louisiana, still up in the air.