Republican Glenn Youngkin has been elected as Virginia’s next governor in a major upset, according to US media projections.
He was 2.1 points ahead of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, with 99% of votes counted.
Mr McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014-18, saw his opinion poll lead vanish in recent weeks.
The ballot has been widely seen as a referendum on Joe Biden’s presidency, and defeat will unnerve the Democrats.
Mr Biden won by 10 points in Virginia in the presidential election just a year ago.
In a speech to cheering fans, Mr Youngkin promised to get to work straight away to transform the state.
“We work in real people time, not government time,” the Republican declared.
The state’s current, Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, was unable to stand for re-election as Virginia does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms in office.
In more potential good news for Republicans in the state, their candidate, former US Marine Winsome Sears is tipped to become the first black female lieutenant governor of the state, which was the former seat of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Winsome Sears celebrates winning the race for Lt. Governor of Virginia as she introduces Republican candidate for Governor Glenn Youngkin during an election night party in Chantilly Virginia, U.S., November 3, 2021.
The Republican candidate for Virginia attorney general, Cuban American Jason Miyares, was also leading that vote count. And Republicans seemed to be closing in on control of the state’s House of Delegates.
In other elections across the US on Tuesday:
Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli had a narrow lead over New Jersey’s Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, with 88% of votes counted
Amid surging crime, Minneapolis voters rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety, more than a year after the murder of George Floyd by an officer
As expected, Democrat Eric Adams won New York City’s mayoral election to replace his party colleague Bill de Blasio
In other races, voters in Boston elected their first woman of colour as mayor, Michelle Wu, an Asian-American, and Pittsburgh picked its first black mayor, Democrat Ed Gainey
Mr Youngkin is the first Republican elected to statewide office in Virginia since 2009.
The political newcomer focused during the bitterly fought election on crime and the economy, as well as how schools handle race, gender and mask mandates.
Mr McAuliffe campaigned on other cultural issues, such as abortion rights and voting reform.
But the Democrat’s critics hammered him for saying during a debate: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”