RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican David Owen defeated Democrat Susanna Gibson in a Virginia House of Delegates race that drew attention after revelations that Gibson engaged in sex acts with her husband on a pornographic website.
Gibson ran against Owen in one of the state’s most competitive districts after all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were redrawn to conform with the 2020 Census.
Many political scientists said Gibson's chances in Tuesday's election were doomed after news outlets reported in September about Gibson’s participation in livestreamed sex, which included soliciting payments from viewers in exchange for specific acts.
But Gibson, a nurse practitioner, refused to withdraw from the race, and accused Republicans of dirty politics for exposing her conduct. She largely ignored the allegations and, like other Democrats statewide, focused on abortion rights. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has been seeking a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.
The race had been pegged as one of several that could determine control in the House of Delegates. But even with Owen's win, Republicans lost control of the House of Delegates. Democrats also maintained their narrow margin in the state Senate. Those legislative victories will allow Democrats to block Youngkin’s policy agenda, though they will have to work with him to advance their own.
Owen issued a statement on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, thanking voters.
“I will begin work immediately to provide the unity, common-sense leadership, and responsive service that I promised,” he said.
Gibson's campaign has not issued any statement since the polls closed. Her campaign manager said late Tuesday night that the campaign expected to issue a statement at some point Wednesday.
In the weeks before Election Day, Republicans had sought to remind voters of Gibson's videos. The Republican Party of Virginia sent mailers out to voters that contained screenshots. The envelopes warned recipients that explicit materials were contained inside and that minors should not open the envelope.
Owen, a residential developer, ran a campaign similar to those of Republicans across the state, focusing on parental rights in education, lower taxes and crime.
Gibson answered the GOP attacks to some extent Monday in an op-ed piece for the left-leaning website Blue Virginia, labeling her GOP attackers as “politicians who feel they have a right to know what goes on in our private lives and the power to control what we do with our bodies.”
The 57th District includes parts of Richmond’s western suburbs in Henrico and Goochland counties. The nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project rated it the third most competitive of Virginia’s 100 House of Delegates districts, with only a very slight lean toward Republicans, based on recent voting patterns. Virginia voters do not register by party.