RICHMOND, Va. | Republican Keith S. Fimian conceded Tuesday in a narrow loss in a Northern Virginia congressional race to Democratic freshman Rep. Gerald E. Connolly after initial results and a preliminary canvass last week showed him finishing about 900 votes behind.
Out of about 225,000 votes cast, the margin was less than 0.4 of a percentage point, narrow enough under Virginia law to qualify for a court-supervised recount at state expense.
Virginia Republicans had already knocked off three incumbent Democratic congressmen in last week’s midterm elections, but fell just short in one of the state’s more liberal bastions.
Mr. Fimian, a former collegiate and professional football player, spent the weekend consulting with advisers and supporters and left open the slight prospect he would contest the outcome up to the state’s Nov. 22 deadline.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia will conduct another canvass of the election results before that,” Mr. Fimian said. “If the results change significantly, I hold open the option of revisiting my decision.”
In Fairfax County, a relieved and feisty Mr. Connolly said the close race showed him “a lot of humility is in order,” but he rejected the suggestion that it meant his popularity was ebbing. Mr. Connolly easily beat Mr. Fimian in 2008.
“There were four competitive races in Virginia. Only one [incumbent] was left standing, and you’re looking at him,” Mr. Connolly said. “I prevailed, and that is a sign of strength, not of weakness.”
Two other Virginia first-term Democrats — Reps. Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye — lost, as did Rep. Rick Boucher, a 14-term Democrat from southwestern Virginia, in one of the Nov. 2 vote’s bigger upsets.
“Winning, like losing, is a passing phenomenon in politics,” Mr. Connolly said.
The Democrat said he believes he benefited from comments Mr. Fimian made in the campaign’s final weeks that the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre might have ended differently had other students been “packing heat.”
A gun-control group, Americans United for Safe Streets, ran television ads and distributed brochures attacking Mr. Fimian’s comment. They featured the brother of a student killed at Virginia Tech.
In a suburban and generally affluent district, Mr. Connolly said, Mr. Fimian’s “packing heat” remark did not play well.
“That may have made an impact on moderate and independent voters who would hear that as a pretty extreme point of view and an insight into the person expressing that view,” Mr. Connolly said.
There was no reply to telephone messages seeking comment from Mr. Fimian or his campaign Tuesday.
Mr. Connolly’s victory means that just a handful of races are still undecided from the midterm vote. In the sole Senate race still outstanding, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican running as a write-in candidate, appeared to hold the edge over GOP nominee Joe Miller in Alaska, but the counting of the write-in ballots only got under way Tuesday.