- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

RICHMOND — Both candidates in the contested attorney general’s election proceeded with plans yesterday to take office as the margin separating them was less than 0.03 of a percentage point.

Only 446 votes out of nearly 2 million cast put Republican Robert F. McDonnell ahead of Democrat R. Creigh Deeds after a locality-by-locality canvass of the returns yesterday, the tightest outcome in modern Virginia history.

So close a finish guarantees a laborious, perhaps litigious ballot-box-by-ballot-box, voting-machine-by-voting-machine statewide recount after the Virginia State Board of Elections certifies the results Nov. 28.

The recount would continue into mid-December.

Mr. Deeds yesterday announced the appointment of a transition team as well as a separate group that will oversee his legal interests during a recount.

Aides to Mr. McDonnell, meanwhile, said he would move his team tomorrow into the attorney general-designate’s official transition office.

Gov. Mark Warner yesterday decided to provide Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Deeds state office space so each can concurrently assemble his own team until a recount settles the issue or one side concedes.

Both will operate from suites in the Ninth Street Office Building near Capitol Square, said Kevin Hall, the governor’s press secretary.

Mr. Deeds appointed John Daniel to head his office transition team. Under Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, Mr. Daniel was the state’s first secretary of natural resources.

“Since the margin is so close and could go either way as we move through the process, I am preparing to transition into office and become the next attorney general,” Mr. Deeds said.

He designated Richmond attorney and former state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Framme as chairman of Virginia Victory 2005, which will oversee his legal interests during the recount. Mr. Framme in 1989 headed the gubernatorial recount team for L. Douglas Wilder.

McDonnell campaign manager Janet Polarek dismissed Mr. Deeds’ announcement as “political grandstanding.”

“It is surprising that a candidate who announced a recount team and lost after the certified results from each locality were turned in would announce a transition team,” she said.

Mr. Deeds, however, noted that in just days, his deficit to Mr. McDonnell had decreased by more than 3,000 votes. He said either man could be the eventual winner.

What’s more, Mr. Framme noted, many Virginians last week voted on computerized election machines for the first time, creating unprecedented recount challenges for the state.

“There’s never been this kind of statewide recount in Virginia with this kind type of voting machines, so what was done in 1989 is going to change,” Mr. Framme said.

Mr. Wilder prevailed that year over Republican Marshall Coleman by a margin of fewer than 7,000 votes out of about 1.8 million cast, a much larger spread than this year’s race.

Until last week, the slimmest modern statewide margin was in 1966 when Bill Spong prevailed in a Democratic Senate primary over Sen. A. Willis Robertson by 611 votes out of fewer than 800,000 cast, said University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato.

In that era of unchallenged Democratic dominance in Virginia, winning the nomination amounted to winning the office.

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