- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

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RICHMOND — Voters in Virginia today will elect a U.S. senator and members of Congress and decide on the fate of a constitutional amendment defining traditional marriage.

Sen. George Allen, seeking re-election, is fighting off a challenge by Democrat James H. Webb Jr., former Navy Secretary, for the Senate seat. Mr. Allen, a Republican, was first elected senatorin 2000. The outcome of their race will help decide whether Republicans will retain control of the Senate.

Voters also will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Of the 11 congressional districts in Virginia, few are considered competitive in today’s election, which also will decide control of the House of Representatives.

First-term Rep. Thelma D. Drake, a Republican, has been fighting a tough battle with anti-war Democrat Phil Kellam in the 2nd District, which is home to a high number of military families.

In Northern Virginia, Republican Reps. Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf have Democratic challengers, while Rep. James P. Moran faces a challenge from Republican Iraq war veteran Tom M. O’Donoghue and independent Jim Hurysz.

Mr. Davis faces a challenge from Democrat Andy Hurst and independent Ferdinando Greco. Mr. Wolf faces a challenge from Democrat Judy Feder, libertarian Wilbur “Bill” Wood and independent Neeraj Nigam.

Most pollsters think Mr. Davis and Mr. Wolf are safe, but the race between Mrs. Drake and Mr. Kellam is deemed a tossup.

“I think tomorrow the White House is going to wake up and see that Congress is Democratic and see that the Senate is Democratic and they’ll say, ‘We got a problem,’ ” Mr. Webb said.

Meanwhile, Republicans said they are confident they will keep the majority. “It looks like we’re going to have a solid slate,” Sen. John W. Warner said at an Allen rally last night.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, faces a challenge from independent candidates Andre Peery and Barbara Jean Pryor today.

Mr. Goodlatte yesterday noted that a Democratic tidal wave could lead to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California becoming House speaker.

“Americans are waking up, they’re concerned about the perils of Pelosi,” he said to boos at an Allen rally in Roanoke. “They don’t want that, they don’t need that, they know that this party is the party they can trust to grow our economy.”

The marriage amendment is favored by a slim margin in the polls, mainly as a result of an organized and well-funded opposition campaign.

Proponents and many church leaders say the amendment is needed because of “activist judges” trying to usurp the will of the people, who do not think that homosexuals should exchange vows.

Opponents argue that the measure would unfairly restrict the rights of unmarried heterosexual couples.

Absentee voting has indicated heavy interest in the election. Statewide, 131,745 persons voted absentee in this election, Jean Jensen, executive secretary of the State Board of Elections, told the Associated Press. That compares with only about 75,000 absentee voters in last year’s gubernatorial election.

Yesterday, the Webb campaign said voters throughout Virginia have filed complaints of incidents aimed at suppressing voter turnout in heavily Democratic and black neighborhoods. According to the campaign, Miss Jensen concluded that the incidents appear widespread and deliberate.

“We don’t know the scope of the effort, or how significant it’s been, but it does look like a coordinated effort,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday, referring to the incidents.

Civil liberties groups and party precinct chairmen plan to keep an eye on the voting process today.

In some Northern Virginia precincts, Mr. Webb’s full name will not appear on the summary page of the touch-screen machines. Officials have said the problem will be corrected before next year’s legislative races.

Two polls released yesterday illustrate the closeness of the race between Mr. Allen and Mr. Webb.

While Survey USA had Mr. Webb winning by eight points, a Gallup/USA Today poll showed Mr. Allen with a three-point lead. Other polls have them statistically tied.

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