VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Democrat Elaine Luria defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia on Tuesday in a closely watched race that represents a swift turnaround from the incumbent's lopsided victory just two years ago.
Luria's win in Virginia's coastal 2nd District appears to have benefited from voter antipathy toward President Donald Trump and a ballot-fraud scandal that tainted Taylor's campaign over the summer.
"For a while now, we've had leaders in Washington who don't share the values of coastal Virginia," Luria said after claiming victory.
She also had the military background that's vital for running in a region that is home to the world's biggest Navy base and one of the nation's largest veteran populations. Luria is a former Navy commander who spent 20 years in the service and once led a combat-ready unit of 400 sailors.
Just two years ago, Taylor won by a margin of nearly 23 percentage points in the traditionally Republican district that spans Virginia's entire coast and includes Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.
The former Navy SEAL supported the Republican tax law and a Republican attempt in 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, two positions that Luria repeatedly criticized. She has also promised to help calm the "chaos" in President Trump's Washington.
Taylor was considered a good fit for many voters in this libertarian-leaning district, but he found himself in a race that had grown extremely tight by September.
State Democrats, including Gov. Ralph Northam, had made some gains in the 2nd District in 2017. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured resources behind Luria in its quest to flip the district and retake the U.S. House.
Luria's resume also played a key role. And then there was the ballot-fraud scandal that clouded Taylor's campaign.
A handful of Taylor's staff members were accused of forging signatures to place independent candidate Shaun Brown, a former Democrat, on the ballot. The effort was widely seen as a strategy by Republicans to siphon votes away from Luria.
Democrats successfully sued to remove Brown from the race. A judge had found evidence of "out-and-out fraud" among the ballot petitions for Brown that were submitted by some of Taylor's staff members.
A criminal investigation is ongoing. But Taylor has maintained that he knew nothing of any wrongdoing and fired campaign staff tied to the scandal.