- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

The balance of power in Virginia’s House delegation is hinging on the outcome of one race after an election in which Democrats won a U.S. Senate seat, two congressional seats and delivered the traditionally Republican state to Sen. Barack Obama.

With all 307 precincts reporting in Virginia’s 5th District on Wednesday, Republican incumbent Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. trailed Democratic challenger Tom Perriello by 31 votes, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.

But the race remained too close to call, and final results will not be certified by the elections board until Nov. 24 - meaning it may be days or weeks before an official winner is known.

“This is a tight election,” Mr. Goode said late Wednesday morning, when he was still ahead of Mr. Perriello in the polls. “We are optimistic when every ballot vote is counted that we will prevail.”

A victory by Mr. Goode, a six-term incumbent, would give Virginia Republicans a slim 6-5 majority in Congress, far from the 8-3 lead they held entering Tuesday.

A win for Mr. Perriello would shift Virginia’s balance of power in the House toward Democrats and nearly seal Virginia’s switch from red to blue: Democrats have already picked up two formerly Republican seats - in the 2nd and 11th districts, according to uncertified results. And the party has not held a majority of the state’s congressional seats since 1998.

Voters also elected former Gov. Mark Warner to the Senate - giving Democrats control of the state’s two seats in the chamber for the first time since 1970. Their votes for Mr. Obama mark the first time Virginia has elected a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Local electoral boards, including those in the 5th District, were expected to meet Wednesday to begin canvassing processes that include counting provisional ballots, collecting vote summaries from precincts and rechecking ballot totals.

State elections board spokeswoman Susan Pollard said officials will certify results Nov. 24. A candidate whose margin of defeat is 1 percent or less of the total votes cast then has 10 days to request a recount, which appears a possibility in the Goode-Perriello race.

Goode spokesman John Scofield said his campaign had received good news and bad news throughout the day, and it didn’t appear the race would be decided until the end of the week.

Perriello spokeswoman Jessica Barba said her campaign planned to focus on the initial vote count and that the tallies had “been changing extremely rapidly.”

“We’re very confident that people in the district are ready for change,” she said.

An overview of Virginia’s congressional races and of how voters sided in the presidential election appears to illustrate the state’s changing political landscape.

As expected, voters in the 11th District easily sided with Mr. Obama and Democratic congressional candidate Gerald E. Connolly.

However, voters in the 2nd District - which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach and has a heavy concentration of military personnel - also sided with Mr. Obama, though by fewer than 600 votes with roughly 99 percent of precincts reporting.

In the 2nd District, voters this year also unseated incumbent Republican Thelma Drake, who lost to Democrat Glenn C. Nye III by roughly 8,000 votes with most precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Mr. Nye early Wednesday morning.

The 5th District includes the college town of Charlottesville and more rural areas of the state known as Southside. Republican Sen. John McCain won the district this year by roughly 8,200 votes. But Democrats clearly made inroads since Mr. Bush won the region by more than 36,600 votes in 2004.

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