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Former Virginia Beach councilmember Aaron Rouse wins state Senate seat

Signs for the 7th Senate District candidates are seen in Kempsville on the day of the special election.
Laura Philion
Former Virginia Beach City Councilmember Aaron Rouse defeated Navy veteran Kevin Adams on Tuesday in a special election for state Senate.

Democrat Aaron Rouse, a former Virginia Beach councilman and NFL player, declared victory in a special state Senate election against Republican Kevin Adams, a Navy veteran.

Rouse beat Adams by 348 votes — less than 1% of the vote. He'll fill the seat vacated by now-Rep. Jen Kiggans, a Republican who was elected to Congress in November.

"No rest for the weary — tomorrow, we head to Richmond to get to work for Virginia families," Rouse tweeted Tuesday night.

Come November, all seats in the General Assembly are up for re-election, meaning if Rouse wants to keep his seat, he'll be running another campaign.

The 7th Senate District race won't determine which party controls the legislative body in Richmond. Democrats already hold a one-seat majority in the Senate. But the seat could be the swing vote on the issue of abortion.

It's one of the reason money poured into the campaigns: The 7th Senate District race was the most expensive special election in Virginia Senate history. Each candidate raised more than $1 million leading up to Tuesday's election.

Richmond Democrat state Sen. Joe Morrissey recently said he’d keep an “open mind” about abortion ban proposals from Republicans in this year’s General Assembly session. If he breaks with his party, Democrats need Rouse's vote to prevail on any abortion legislation in the Senate.

Rouse emphasized the issue in his campaign in the Republican-leaning district.

"I think that is the most important priority for our commonwealth and for our nation," Rouse told WHRO. "[It's an] opportunity to be a leader and say we're not going to roll back the hands of time when it comes to women's rights."

Adams said he supports Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s suggestion of a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Rouse, whose football career led him to the NFL, regularly talks about the role educators played in his athletic career. It's why he says public education is a topic he wants to focus on in the state Senate.

"I would not be where I am today or who I am today without our public education system and what that means is making sure that our teachers, educators and staff have a livable wage," he said.

 Read the original story on WHRO's website.