Control of Virginia state House at stake as recounts begin

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virginia officials started recounts on Wednesday in the first of four state House of Delegates races, a process that could lead to a Democratic takeover of the chamber after the party’s historic election gains last month.

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the House after Democrats erased a two-to-one advantage in November, part of the party’s first big wave of victories since Republican Donald Trump won the White House last year.

Four of the legislative races were close enough to lead to recounts. If Democrats gain one seat in the House, the chamber would be tied 50-50 with no tiebreaking mechanism.

Governor-elect Ralph Northam is a Democrat, and Republicans hold a 21-19 edge in the state Senate.

The first recount was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in suburban Washington’s District 58, where Republican incumbent Tim Hugo narrowly won re-election by 106 votes over Democrat Donte Tanner.

Others are planned for next week, including one where the Republican leads by only 10 votes.

In a recount set for Dec. 21 in northern Virginia’s District 28, Democrat Joshua Cole trails Republican Robert Thomas by 82 votes. The state elections board has said at least 147 voters were assigned to the wrong district, and voters have filed a federal lawsuit to hold a new election.

Andrea Gaines, a state elections spokeswoman, said in an email that she had no information on when results for the recounts would be announced.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cythia Osterman