- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

RICHMOND — Republican Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr. were locked in a razor-thin race in Virginia last night as the nation watched to see whether the contest would change which party controls the Senate.

The race was too close to call and seemed to be headed for a recount. Mr. Webb, a Vietnam War veteran who served as President Reagan’s Navy secretary, held a lead of 7,815 votes as of 2:30 a.m., and declared victory before several hundred supporters.

All but 9 of 2,443 precincts had been counted. “I would like to say the votes are in and we won,” the former Marine said with a huge smile. “This is a great moment for all of us that believe in an inclusive society and all of us that believe we need to bring true economic fairness back to economic system.”

Mr. Allen had no plans to concede, and reminded supporters gathered for him here in Richmond that he has won close elections before.

“The first time I ever won an election … it was 18 votes. We had to have a recount,” Mr. Allen said, to huge cheers from those who were still left in the room at about 12:30 a.m.

“So, the point of the matter is, we’re still counting votes.” In that 1983 race for a House of Delegates seat, Mr. Allen ultimately won by less than 30 votes.

He later went on to be a member of Congress and governor, and then unseated Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb in 2000.

“I know the counting will continue through the night, it will continue tomorrow,” he said. “I know you are going to be like a bunch of eagles and hawks watching how everyone one of these votes are accurately counted.”

It will take weeks before the results are certified, and the margin is highly likely to change as volunteers canvas the tallies and triple check their math in each precinct.

After that, the loser can request a recount if the margin remains less than 1 percent. Secretary of State Jean Jensen, a nonpartisan official who works under Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, will be in the spotlight tomorrow to explain the process.

Independent Gail Parker, who said Monday that she supports Mr. Webb, received 25,604 votes, or 1.11 percent.

Voters also approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment passed 58 percent to 42 percent, with 2,380 of 2,443 precincts reporting.

Turnout was estimated at 50.6 percent of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters. 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 about 75,000 absentee voters in last year’s gubernatorial election.

Meanwhile, the FBI said yesterday that it was investigating complaints about attempts to mislead Virginia voters into not voting or going to the wrong polling place.

All of the state’s 11 incumbents — eight of them Republicans — retained their seats in Congress yesterday.

In one of the closely watched races, Republican Rep. Thelma Drake narrowly defeated anti-war Democrat Phil Kellam, a Virginia Beach official, in the state’s 2nd District, which is home to many military families. With 152 of 153 precincts reporting, Mrs. Drake won 85,840 votes, or 51 percent, to Mr. Kellam’s 81,107 votes, or 48 percent, in a race that attracted national attention and advertising as one of the potential Democratic pickups.

In Northern Virginia, Republican Reps. Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf beat their Democratic opponents. Mr. Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, defeated Democratic challenger Andy Hurst. With 130 of 160 precincts reporting, Mr. Davis captured 99,212 votes, or 55 percent, while Mr. Hurst received 78,353 votes, or 44 percent. Other candidates received less than 1 percent of the vote each.

With 180 of 187 precincts reporting, Mr. Wolf, a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, received 126,907 votes, or 57 percent, while Democrat Judy Feder captured 90,094 votes, or 41 percent. Other candidates each received less than 1 percent of the vote.

At his victory party at Holiday Inn Washington Dulles International Airport last night, Mr. Wolf thanked his supporters and said he was proud of running a positive campaign. He also appealed for bipartisanship. “My pledge … is to be the same member of Congress in the future that I’ve been in the past,” he told the cheering crowd.

Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat, retained his seat, capturing 135,289 votes, or 66 percent, with 151 of 153 precincts reporting. Republican Tom O’Donoghue received 62,141 votes, or 31 percent.

At his victory party at the Sheraton Premiere, Mr. Moran said he was looking forward to returning to a Congress that appeared to be run by Democrats after yesterday’s election. “It gives us two years to show an alternative course for this nation,” Mr. Moran told supporters.

Early in the Allen-Webb race, Republicans thought Mr. Allen would cruise to victory and be poised for a 2008 White House bid, but the senator struggled after he was videotaped in August referring to an Indian-American Webb volunteer as “macaca.”

Mr. Webb, a first-time candidate drafted by bloggers, began the race 10 months ago with no money or staff.

An early opponent of the Iraq war, Mr. Webb campaigned on economic-fairness issues and against the Bush administration for what he deemed its failed policy in Iraq. His son is fighting in Iraq.

Mr. Webb raised $6 million as of Oct. 18, hitting a fundraising stride after Mr. Allen’s macaca comment and thanks in part to political heavy hitters, including former President Bill Clinton, former Gov. Mark Warner and Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat.

Several thousand absentee ballots in traditionally Democratic Richmond City remained outstanding, while votes in one Virginia Beach precinct and in several central Virginia suburbs that lean Republican had yet to be reported.

Mr. Allen held the lead most of the night, but as Democratic precincts in Northern Virginia rolled in, the scales tipped in Mr. Webb’s favor.

• Seth McLaughlin was with the Webb campaign and contributed to this report, along with Kara Rowland and Jen Haberkorn. Christina Bellantoni was with the Allen campaign.

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