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Virginia Attorney General election, 2005

Virginia Attorney General election, 2005

November 8, 2005

Nominee Bob McDonnell Creigh Deeds
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 970,981 970,621
Percentage 49.96% 49.94%

Attorney General before election

Judith Jagdmann

Elected Attorney General

Bob McDonnell

The Virginia Attorney General election of 2005 took place on November 8, 2005, to elect the Attorney General of Virginia. Jerry Kilgore, who had been elected Attorney General in 2001, resigned in February 2005 to run for Governor, as is the tradition in Virginia. He was replaced by Judith Jagdmann, the Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Litigation Division, who did not run in the election.

The Republican primary was won by State Delegate Bob McDonnell, who defeated attorney Steve Baril. State Senator Creigh Deeds was unopposed in the Democratic primary. McDonnell won the race, which was so close it required a recount, by 360 votes [1] He was sworn in as Attorney General alongside Governor Tim Kaine and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling on January 14, 2006.

Republican primary

The primary campaign was a contentious one.[2] Baril accused McDonnell of bypassing campaign finance laws by taking hundreds of thousands of Dollars in donations from clients he represented in cases in front of state agencies in his dual role as a "lawyer-legislator".[3] McDonnell replied that the allegations were "baseless". Baril promised to be "the people's lawyer" and was endorsed by Eric Cantor. McDonnell, carrying Jim Gilmore's endorsement, cast himself as an experienced reformer.[4]




Virginia Attorney General Republican primary, 2005[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Bob McDonnell 110,125 65.63%
Republican Steve Baril 57,679 34.37%
Majority 52,446 47.62%
Turnout 167,804

Democratic primary

Roanoke State Senator John S. Edwards was to challenge Deeds in a primary fight for the Attorney General Nomination for the Democratic Party of Virginia. Edwards, who had won 30% of the vote in the primary in 2001, was considered a viable candidate, but inevitably dropped out due to his tough liberal stances on Gay Rights.[6] After Edwards' withdrawal, Deeds was the only candidate left in the Democratic primary. Running unopposed, Deeds won 100% of the primary vote on June 14, 2005 [7]




General election


Deeds at a rally in Charlottesville

After securing the nomination due to Edwards' withdrawal, Deeds began positioning himself as a centrist Democrat such as Mark Warner. On June 14, Deeds found out his opponent in the general election would be Bob McDonnell after McDonnell had won the Republican primary.[8] McDonnell, who also positioned himself as a moderate campaigned against Deeds. Throughout early polling, Deeds and McDonnell started the race off tied.

The first poll of the race, conducted by Mason-Dixon showed Deeds at 34% and McDonnell barely ahead with 35% which was inside the margin of error. By the second poll which was also conducted by Mason Dixon, Deeds was behind 33%-36%. Deeds continued to campaign and was endorsed by NARAL in August 2005.[9]

Deeds based his campaign headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was in his native Senate district. Deeds continued to lag McDonnell in the polls until the endorsement of the NRA. In late September 2005, the NRA unexpectedly endorsed Deeds, the Democrat, over McDonnell.[10] With the new ability to claim himself as a "centrist" Democrat, Deeds had gained much needed campaign momentum.

By late October, Deeds was only 4%-5% behind McDonnell. Heading into early November, Deeds was inside the margin of error with McDonnell, behind 40%-43%. On Election day, it appeared obvious that the race was heading into a recount. Deeds trailed McDonnell by approximately 320 votes.


Source [11] Date Deeds (D) McDonnell (R)
Mason Dixon November 1–2, 2005 40% 43%
Roanoke College October 23–30, 2005 34% 39%
Rasmussen Reports October 26, 2005 39% 43%
Mason Dixon October 18–20, 2005 34% 42%
Mason Dixon September 13–15, 2005 33% 36%
Mason Dixon July 19–21, 2005 34% 35%

For the majority of the campaign, Deeds lagged McDonnell from anywhere between 3%-8%. However, in the final weeks of the campaign, Deeds picked up support due in part because of the NRA's endorsement of him. In the final poll taken by Mason Dixon and released on November 3, Deeds was only 3% behind McDonnell.


Deeds lagged considerably in the fundraising race. On Election Day, according to Our Campaigns, the candidates had the following amount of Cash on hand:[11]

  • McDonnell - $3,500,000
  • Deeds - $1,700,000

Initial results

Virginia Attorney General Republican primary, 2005[12]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Bob McDonnell 970,886 49.96%
Democratic Creigh Deeds 970,563 49.95%


In late November, the Board of Elections certified Bob McDonnell as the winner by 323 votes. However, Deeds announced he would petition the courts for a recount on November 29.[13] The recount was set to last until mid-December.

The recount started later than expected on December 20, 2005 when both campaigns were allowed to comb through ballots to make any challenges [14] Despite the fact that it was a recount, very few ballots were actually recounted as opposed to both campaigns making challenges to hand-fulls of ballot instead.

On December 22, 2005 however, the Board of Elections confirmed Bob McDonnell the winner of the recount by a 360 vote margin.[15] Despite the fact that the race was one of the closest in history, the recount had actually gained McDonnell exactly 37 votes boosting his margin from 323 votes to exactly a 360 vote lead over Deeds. Deeds called McDonnell at 7:15 that night to congratulate him on the victory.[16]

Final results

After the recount, the final certified tally was as follows:[15]

Virginia Attorney General Republican primary, 2005[12]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Bob McDonnell 970,981 49.96%
Democratic Creigh Deeds 970,621 49.94%
Write-ins 1,801 0.09%
Majority 360 0.02%
Turnout 1,943,403


  1. ^ The Virginia News Letter (February 2006). "Election Recounts in Virginia". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  2. ^ Baril-McDonnell race getting personal [GOP VA Attorney General]
  3. ^ Baril: McDonnell bypassing campaign funding rules
  4. ^ GOP candidates for attorney general trade barbs as primary nears
  5. ^ Race details at
  6. ^ The Roanoke Times (March 4, 2005). "Roanoke senator drops statewide nomination". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ Our Campaigns. "VA Attorney General - D Primary". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ Our Campaigns. "VA Attorney General Race - R Primary". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  9. ^ NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia (August 18, 2005). "NARAL PRO-CHOICE VIRGINA (sic) ANNOUNCES CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENTS FOR 2005". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  10. ^ Washington Post (September 30, 2009). "NRA Backs Dem for Va. Attorney General Race". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b Our Campaigns. "VA Attorney General". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b Virginia Board of Elections. "General Election - November 8, 2005". Retrieved April 8, 2009. 
  13. ^ The New York Times (November 29, 2005). "Recount Likely in Attorney General Race". Retrieved April 8, 2009. 
  14. ^ Morello, Carol (December 21, 2005). "Recount Starts, but Without Va. Ballots". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2009. 
  15. ^ a b The Los Angeles Times (December 22, 2005). "Virginia Recount Verifies Win". Retrieved April 8, 2005. 
  16. ^ The Washington Post (December 22, 2005). "McDonnell Clinches Attorney General Race". Retrieved April 5, 2009. 
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