Webb Wins Pivotal Senate Race in Va.
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; 10:19 PM
RICHMOND, Va. -- Democrat Jim Webb won Virginia's pivotal Senate race Wednesday, unseating Republican George Allen and giving the Democrats total control of Congress for the first time in 12 years.
After GOP Sen. Conrad Burns' loss in Montana, the Virginia contest was the last undecided Senate race in the country. Webb's victory gave the Democrats 51 Senate seats and majorities in both the House and Senate for the first time since 1994.
Control of the Senate hung in the balance for most of Wednesday as Webb clung to an excruciatingly small lead.
AP contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their post-election canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.
The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.
An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss has not formally decided to end the campaign, said the senator wanted to wait until most canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening.
The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.
Moving swiftly to establish himself as the winner, Webb began assembling a transition team hours after he proclaimed victory around 1:30 a.m.
"The vote's been counted and Jim won," said campaign spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd. Some absentee ballots remained to be counted, she said, but Webb considers it "a formality more than anything else."
Allen's campaign, however, said the senator would wait for the completion of a full canvass _ that is, a recheck of the numbers by local election officials. By law, it must be done by next Tuesday.
Lee E. Goodman, chief counsel for the Republican Party of Virginia, said the senator had not decided whether to ask for a recount.
There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes a half-percentage point or less behind to request a recount paid for by state and local governments.