GOP keeps control of Virginia state Senate despite gun control spending

(Reuters) - Republicans kept control of the Virginia state Senate on Tuesday despite millions from billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group backing Democrats.

The victories mean that the Republicans retain control of both houses of the state legislature. The party remains an obstacle to Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe as he tries to tighten gun laws and expand Medicaid in the state, a battleground in the 2016 presidential elections.

Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group had made the Virginia races an election focus. It spent $2.2 million in ads for two Democratic Senate candidates in a bid to have the party take control of the 40-seat chamber.

Democrat Jeremy McPike, an Alexandria city administrator, defeated Republican Hal Parrish in a race in Washington’s suburbs.

But Democrat Dan Gecker, who was also backed by Everytown, was beaten by Republican lawyer Glen Sturtevant in a Richmond-area district.

The races were part of a surge of money by gun control backers into state elections as efforts to pass federal gun control legislation have failed.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis