- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

A Republican state senator won Virginias 4th Congressional District seat last night, narrowly beating his Democratic opponent in a special election that was marked by negative advertising and heavy spending by the national parties.
State Senator J. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake received 69,719 votes, or 52 percent. His opponent, state Senator L. Louise Lucas, captured 63,199 votes, or 48 percent, with 232 of 239 precincts reporting in what is a highly competitive district.
The race to succeed Norman Sisisky, a Democrat who died in March, was widely viewed by both parties as an early referendum on the Bush administration and as a bellwether for next years midterm elections.
Mr. Forbes victory also means Republicans can now claim momentum on Social Security. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Forbes embraced President Bushs plan to allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in the stock market, while Mrs. Lucas vehemently opposed that plan, equating it with privatizing Social Security.
The Forbes win gives Republicans an extra seat margin in Congress. The balance, after the election, stands at 222 Republicans, 210 Democrats, two independents and one vacancy.
The two national parties spent an estimated $3.5 million on behalf of the candidates, mostly for television ads and mass mailings.
The parties sent national politicians to campaign for each of the candidates. Vice President Richard B. Cheney, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert from Illinois, and Rep. J.C. Watts from Oklahoma campaigned for Mr. Forbes. Democratic Reps. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania and Ike Skelton of Missouri campaigned for Mrs. Lucas.
The race also was a test for two Virginia Republicans on the national scene: Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, who is also Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman.
The NRCC and RNC together accounted for most Republican spending during the campaign, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accounted for most Democratic spending, with help from unions.
The 4th District runs from Chesapeake, on the North Carolina border, up to the southeastern and western Richmond suburbs.
A court order forced the district to be redrawn in 1998, which bumped the black population from 32 percent to almost 40 percent — and even Republicans admit they expect to lose almost all of those voters. But Chesapeake, Mr. Forbes hometown, makes up about 40 percent of the district as well — and Mr. Forbes was expected to carry the city easily.
The district has been hard to win for Republicans. Former President Bill Clinton twice won the district, as did former Democratic Senator Charles S. Robb, who lost to Republican George F. Allen last fall. But in that same election, President Bush carried the district.
Officials from both parties expected that fewer than half of the districts 360,000 registered voters would cast ballots yesterday, because it is a special election and many people are away on summer vacation. The Democratic primary last week also suffered from low turnout.
The two state senators have fought bitterly in recent weeks to succeed Mr. Sisisky, who at the time of his death was serving his 10th term in Congress and was a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
A lawyer from Chesapeake, Mr. Forbes was a delegate before winning his Senate seat in 1997 and was chairman of the state GOP.
* Stephen Dinan contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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