Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this story said that U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) had defeated challenger Donna Edwards. However, because the race is so close and there are an undetermined number of ballots still to be counted, it is not yet clear who will win the election.

Wynn Leads Edwards in a Close Race

By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006; 4:10 PM

Seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) was fighting for his political life on Tuesday, leading challenger Donna Edwards by fewer than 3,000 votes with nearly 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The two candidates had been neck and neck earlier in the contest for the Democratic nomination to congressional District 4, but Wynn moved ahead when more votes were tallied in Prince George's precincts where he enjoys strong support.

Edwards, a lawyer and community activist, trounced Wynn in the part of the congressional district that lies in Montgomery County, winning 60 percent of the vote to his 34 percent. In Prince George's County, which comprises most of the district and where both candidates live, Wynn was winning handily, 56 percent to 40 percent.

However, it was unclear how many provisional ballots still remain to be counted in Montgomery County. Yesterday, problems with the electronic voting system caused some people to vote on paper ballots but those have not be counted yet.

Edwards said she was not ready to give up her campaign until she saw the results of the thousands of provisional and absentee ballots cast in the race.

"We want to see every single vote that was cast counted," she said this afternoon.

"I think [Wynn] will pull it out, but he got the shock of his political career," political science professor Larry Sabato said on Washington Post Radio this morning. "Of course, when you're an incumbent and you almost lose in a primary, you can nearly be sure that the next time around you're going to get an even tougher challenge."

The sharp disparity in voting patterns underscores the stark differences between the two neighboring jurisdictions.

Montgomery voters were drawn to Edwards's opposition to the Iraq war, which Wynn voted for in Congress, and to her liberal positions on campaign finance reform and the environment. Internet bloggers who oppose the war flocked to support her, as did celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Danny Glover and Gloria Steinem.

On election day, Edwards deployed 200 volunteers to polling places to pass out literature, she said. Her campaign made 50,000 live calls during the past 1 1/2 weeks, including one volunteer who alone made 4,000 calls. "It's amazing, every single night, that's what he did," Edwards said yesterday.

Her team canvassed neighborhoods in her district, she said, knocking on 25,000 doors.

Wynn told constituents that he and other Democrats were misled by the Bush administration about the war and said he now believes troops should be withdrawn. But Edwards continued to hammer him on the subject at campaign appearances, calling him "Maryland's Joe Lieberman" in a reference to the Connecticut senator and former vice presidential nominee who lost a bitter primary battle last month.

Wynn significantly increased his public appearances in recent weeks, a stark contrast to previous election seasons, when he barely campaigned and nevertheless won by overwhelming margins.

Edwards tried to paint Wynn as being overly close to the Bush White House, citing his vote for a 2003 energy bill that authorized tax breaks for energy producers as well as a $3 billion increase in assistance for low-earning residents.

Wynn emphasized his strong pro-labor and pro-abortion rights stances, and a long list of endorsements from left-leaning groups.

He touted himself to voters as someone who could deliver projects to the district, which stretches from Clarksburg in Montgomery to Fort Washington in Prince George's, and repeatedly rattled off a long list of improvements that were financed with federal aid.

The campaign was bitter at times. A caustic NAACP debate between the two candidates ended with a Wynn supporter being arrested for allegedly striking an Edwards volunteer during a skirmish over campaign signs.

Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company