- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Keith S. Fimian conceded Tuesday in a narrow loss in a northern Virginia congressional race to Democratic Rep. Gerry 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.

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,” Fimian said. “If the results change significantly, I hold open the option of revisiting my decision.”

In a Fairfax County, a relieved and feisty Connolly said the close race showed him “a lot of humility is in order” but he rejected the suggestion that it shows his popularity ebbing. Connolly easily beat Fimian in 2008.

“There were four competitive races in Virginia. Only one (incumbent) was left standing, and you’re looking at him,” 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.

“Winning, like losing, is a passing phenomenon in politics,” Connolly said.

He said he believes he benefited from comments 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 Fimian’s comment. They featured the brother of a student killed at Virginia Tech.

In the suburban and generally affluent Washington, D.C., district, Connolly said, Fimian’s “packing heat” remark came across as raw.

“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,” Connolly said.

There was no reply to telephone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment from Fimian or his campaign Tuesday.

Challengers have had nothing to show for recounts in high-profile Virginia elections the past 21 years.

Statewide recounts affirmed victories for Democrat L. Douglas Wilder in the 1989 governor’s election and Republican Bob McDonnell, the current governor, in the 2005 attorney general’s election.

Two years ago, a six-week recount in the 5th Congressional District upheld Perriello’s victory over Republican Rep. Virgil Goode by 787 votes.

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