Virginia Senate Race Too Close to Call

By Michael D. Shear and Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; 12:42 PM

Democratic challenger James Webb held a slim lead over Republican Sen. George Allen today in Virginia's U.S. Senate race, a dramatic and nasty battle that almost certainly will be decided by a recount next month.

With 99.8 percent of the votes tallied by 11:30 a.m. today, Webb claimed victory with a lead of about 7,000 votes among the more than 2.3 million cast -- a difference of three-tenths of a percent. Some absentee ballots in James City County, Isle of Wight County and Fairfax City were still being counted today.

But an adviser for Allen said the senator will wait for the results to become official on Nov. 27 -- just shy of three weeks away -- before accepting the tally.

Meanwhile, Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions and returned all the state's incumbents to the U.S. House. Republicans won in two local elections in Prince William County.

Webb captured a huge amount of support in Northern Virginia, while Allen was beating him across large swaths of the rest of the state. Those differences confirmed a widening gulf between voters in the Washington suburbs and the rest of the state, which also drove approval of the same-sex marriage amendment over Northern Virginia's opposition.

Shortly after 1 a.m. today, after he took the lead in the count, Webb told supporters at a Tysons Corner hotel: "I'd also like to say the votes are in, and we won. This is a great moment for all of us."

But Allen showed no signs of giving up. In Richmond, Allen emerged after midnight to tell his supporters to "Stay strong for freedom . . . and accuracy in elections will prevail." He said he would call on them in the days ahead.

"This has been an interesting election, and the election continues," he said.

Wednesday morning at Allen's campaign headquarters in Richmond, Ed Gillespie, an adviser to Allen, told reporters that the incumbent will wait for the Virginia State Board of Elections to certify the election-day results, which is scheduled to happen on the fourth Monday of November, or Nov. 27.

"We're going to respect the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which say this process is not yet completed," Gillespie said. "Only at the end of that process is a winner declared. We prefer to wait."

Gillespie said the canvassing or confirming of the results, which started today, often turns up mistakes that can spell a substantial gain in votes for one candidate or another. "We're looking forward to watching this process unfold," Gillespie said.

He noted that in last year's close race for Virginia attorney general, Republican Bob McDonnell ended up winning by a 323-vote margin after a recount.

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